If you're unable to work because of a health condition, there may be help available. You may receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if you have a qualifying disability and you worked long enough to be eligible.
However, before you can receive SSDI, you must follow a detailed application process. Here's what to do.
Filing for Social Security Disability
There are three ways to file an application:
- You can apply for Social Security disability online. This can be done at your convenience, and in stages, if necessary. The site provides easy-to-understand information and tips for completing the process. While there, you can open a my Social Security account to have ready access to all your documentation.
- You may call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1-800-772-1213 between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm ET Monday–Friday.
- You can make an appointment with your local Social Security office to come in and apply in person.
When you're ready to apply for SSDI, you'll need the following documents:
- A disability report. This SSA form asks for some general information about you and the details of your disability, as well as verification from someone other than a doctor who knows about your medical condition. It also requires a list of the medications you're taking and your medical treatment. You'll need to provide an account of your education, training, and work activity as well.
- Your job history. The SSA needs to understand your employment over the last 15 years to determine whether your disability prevents you from doing any type of work. On this form, you'll list job titles, job descriptions, and dates worked. Additional questions are asked about your specific job responsibilities.
- Medical documentation. The healthcare providers who treat your condition need to provide information about it, and how it relates to your need for disability benefits. Medical reports, physicians' names and contact information are usually required as well.
The SSA reviews all documentation and then determines if your application is approved or denied. If approved, your benefits should start five months after your disability onset date. Unfortunately, the majority of initial SSDI applications aren't approved. Most people need to appeal the decision before they receive benefits.
Filing a Social Security Disability Appeal
Your SSDI benefits denial letter should explain why your application wasn't approved. Then, you have 60 days to file an appeal.
The appeals process includes four levels, which should be followed in order:
- Reconsideration. An SSA representative not involved in your initial application reviews your application. You may present additional evidence and documentation at this stage to support your claim.
- Hearing. If your claim isn't approved during reconsideration, the next stage of appeal is a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Additional evidence may be presented during this stage as well, and witnesses may be called to testify.
- Appeals Council. If the administrative law judge denies your claim, then you may appeal to the SSA's Appeals Council. The Appeals Council has the authority to do one of three things: (a) review your case and make an eligibility decision; (b) send your case back to an administrative law judge; or (c) deny your request for this level of appeal.
- Federal District Court. Your final opportunity for appeal is in the federal court system. A federal judge may decide your claim or send it back to the SSA for further review.
Many disability applications initially denied are finally approved through some form of appeal.
Contact a Skilled Social Security Attorney
Seeking disability benefits is a complicated but necessary process if you require assistance after an illness or injury that leaves you unable to work. If you were denied benefits, you deserve a legal team that will explain each stage of the appeals process thoroughly, clarify all documentation needs, and support you in court, if necessary.
To learn how the experts at Gibbons Leis, PLLC can help with your Social Security disability case, contact us today using the information on this page for a free case evaluation.