Experiencing a disability is a devastating time, and if you are unable to work, you worry about how you'll pay for your bills and support your family. Luckily Social Security disability is designed to assist disabled people who cannot work. However, the process to apply for benefits is long and may seem overwhelming, so understanding a breakdown of the general process may calm your nerves.
The first step in getting disability through Social Security is to file a claim. Once the claim is received, it is processed by local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and Disability Determination Services (DDSs). First, SSA field offices verify your personal non-medical information, including your name, age, marital status, etc.
Once that information has been verified as correct, your claim is passed on to the DDS. It is the DDS' responsibility to confirm your disability. They use your medical sources to determine the extent of the disability. If there is not enough information, you may have to go in for a special examination. This is usually performed by your regular doctor, but in some cases, a specialist is used. Using all this information, the DDS makes a decision to either reject your claim or approve it and determine the benefit amount.
Preparing for a Hearing
In many cases, this first claim is denied. Even if you genuinely are disabled, you may not have provided enough information. In this event, an appeal hearing is your next step. It's best to hire an attorney or advocate at this time to help you prepare for the hearing. Firstly, your social security attorneys will work with you on what you should say at the hearing. This is designed to help you clearly state your condition and not mislead or confuse the judge.
During this time, your lawyer will also get in contact with your doctor. The lawyer's goal is to gather all necessary medical records, test results and doctor statements to create a clear and unbiased view of your medical condition. If there is missing information, your lawyer may have you revisit your doctor, so a clear and complete picture of your disability can be presented.
Attending the Hearing
At the hearing, expect to be questioned on your disability. This is where your work with your lawyer to help form your answers will come into play. However, you won't be the only person questioned. In many cases, your doctor may be called to answer questions regarding your condition.
This is another reason you need a lawyer or an advocate. They have experience with disability law. They know what questions to ask and what information the judge wants to hear to help make a ruling. During this time, your attorney or advocate will also fight to get a fair disability onset date, so you get more back pay.
Appealing the Claim on a Federal Level
Hopefully, the judge finds in your favor at this first hearing, but if not, you'll need to appeal your claim on the federal level. If you've been working with an advocate, you'll now need to hire a lawyer as an advocate cannot appeal on a federal district court level.
This process is much like the original hearing, expect you'll be presenting to the federal district court. Your lawyer may gather additional information or speak with other specialists about your disability to help prove your case this third time around.
Filing for Social Security disability is scary, but it doesn't have to be. This breakdown shows the steps you can expect when applying. Just make sure to have a good lawyer or advocate who can help you through each step. For more information about applying for disability, contact a disability lawyer in your area today.