Make the Call
The first step on How to Apply for Social Security Benefits is ensuring that you are eligible to apply. There are two main types of disability claims, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
In order for the SSA to assess your medical conditions to see if you meet the requirements to be found disabled, you must first be eligible to apply for at least one of the programs.
When you contact your local SSA office, inform them that you wish to apply for Social Security Benefits. Some offices will let you know if you may be eligible right over the telephone.
Other offices may require that you complete the full application. In any event, the best place to start is contacting your local office.
Application For Social Security Benefits for Applying for Social Security Benefits
The next step is completing the application for disability benefits. There are three basic ways to complete the application;
1. Online at www.ssa.gov
2. By telephone or in person at your local SSA office with a scheduled appointment
3. By Mail
If you choose to complete the applications by mail, you will find both the Social Security Disability Insurance form (SSA Form 16-F6) and the Supplemental Security Income form (SSA Form-8000-BK) along with SSA Form 3368, the Adult Disability Report, which you will be required to complete, on SSA’s website.
The application for social security benefits has multiple sections to complete. Some sections pertain to your work history while others will be focused on your medical conditions and the medical appointments you have had concerning those conditions.
If you are filing for SSI, several income and asset questions will need to be answered as well. For a complete list of all of the items needed, you should visit SSA’s website.
The easiest and most convenient way to complete a Social Security disability application is online; however, regardless of the means in which you complete your application for social security benefits you should always save a copy for your personal records.
SSA Correspondences and Interview
Upon completion of your Social Security disability application, you should receive correspondence from your local SSA office. This generally includes an application summary which can serve as your receipt for filing.
You may also receive additional forms to complete. It is very important to complete these forms in the time specified and keep a copy for your records. One of these forms may be SSA Form-827.
This form gives SSA permission to request records from medical providers and other establishments.
The SSA may also require an interview with you, which may be in person or over the telephone. You should always be on time for your interview.
If your interview is conducted over the telephone, make certain you are available at least 10 minutes prior to your interview time and in a quiet environment. You should also have all documents completed and handy.
After you have completed your interview, the SSA may require additional information. Most all requests will be mailed to you; however, make certain to write down all requests in the event you do not receive notification by mail. Obtain any additional information in the allotted time and save a copy for your records.
Eligibility Determination while Applying for Social Security Benefits
Once SSA has reviewed all documents and completed any necessary interviews, SSA will confirm that you meet all eligibility requirements for one or more of the disability programs.
If the SSA finds that you do not meet the requirements for either of the disability programs, you will receive what is referred to as a technical denial.
A technical denial will state which program you are not eligible for and the reason(s) for ineligibility. Keep in mind that a technical denial does not address any medical issues.
This denial is based on eligibility for the program(s) alone and can be appealed if you feel that the reason(s) you are denied are based on inaccurate information.
Disability Determination Section
If the local SSA office gives your file the green light, your case will then be sent to the Disability Determination Section and assigned Disability Examiner.
This is the person who will review the medical facts to see if you medically qualify for disability benefits. Your Disability Examiner will be requesting medical records from your medical providers; therefore, it’s important to make sure your doctor is communicating and complying with the examiner’s requests.
The Disability Examiner may ask you to have a medical exam performed by a doctor the SSA has picked. This exam will be paid for by the SSA, and it is extremely important you do not miss this appointment.
Your examiner will also request that you complete additional forms regarding any past jobs that you may have had and also how your medical conditions affect your daily living.
Having an attorney will be really helpful at this step. There’s a lot of communication between you, the disability examiner and any doctors involved.
Your attorney will know the do’s and don’ts of communicating with everyone. This level can take up to six months or more.
The Initial Decision
Your Disability Examiner, with the assistance of medical professionals, will review all the evidence collected and make a determination of whether you meet the requirements to be found disabled according to SSA regulations.
You will then receive a letter from the SSA stating if you’ve been approved or denied for benefits.
If the decision you receive states that you are found disabled, congratulations! Statistically, this is not as common as you might expect.
Most applications are denied; therefore, if the decision you receive is not favorable do not be discouraged. The next section of this article will explain your rights to appeal.
Regardless of the outcome of the decision, you should read the decision in its entirety. The decision will indicate what the next step in the process will be.
How to Appeal for Social Security Disability Benefits
Once you receive a denial letter, the clock is ticking and you only have 60 days to file an appeal. If you miss this 60 day window you may have to start the entire process over by filing a new claim.
As you might have guessed, appealing a denial requires filling out more forms. The first form you need fill out is a Request of Reconsideration. The next form is a Disability Report- Appeal.
You may also be required to complete additional authorization forms allowing SSA to request any updated evidence. All forms must be completed within 60 days of your denial letter and all can be completed online or directly with your local SSA office.
This level of your disability claim is nearly identical to the initial application for social security benefits level except a new Disability Examiner will now review your case.
The new examiner will request any updated evidence from medical providers and other establishments and may require you to complete another set of questionnaires regarding your daily living and possibly set up additional examinations for you to attend.
This level can take additional six months and the majority of claims are once again denied. But, you will still have the right to appeal this second denial within 60 days.
Requesting a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge
If you receive a denial on your Request for Reconsideration, you have 60 days to request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
Nationally, the average timeframe to receive a hearing date can take up to two years. If you have not contacted an attorney yet, now is a good time.
He or she will help prepare you for the types of questions you may have to answer during your hearing.
Your claim is now transferred to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, also known as ODAR and your disability hearing will be rather informal.
Many hearings are even conducted via video teleconference when your ALJ is located in another city. The following individuals will be present at your hearing:
• The Administrative Law Judge
• A hearing reporter who will record the entire hearing
• Your attorney (if you have hired one)
• A vocational expert who will give testimony on jobs that you may be able to perform
• A medical expert may be present to give testimony on your medical conditions
• Witnesses may be present if requested by you, your attorney or the ALJ
The ALJ Decision
You will receive notice of the ALJ’s decision via mail. This can take an average timeframe of approximately 30-90 days; however, in some circumstances, it may take longer.
But, the decision will explain in detail the reasons for being found disabled or not disabled.
The national approval rate is slightly below 50%; therefore, do not be discouraged if you receive an unfavorable decision. This can be appealed within 60 days of the ALJ’s decision notice. This appeal would take your claim to the Appeals Council.
The Appeals Council
When applying for an appeal to the Appeals Council (AC) one of four rulings can happen.
1. Granted- Your case will be approved
2. Denied- The council agrees with the Judge’s decision
3. Dismissed- Your case is not strong enough to be considered by the council
4. Remand- Your case will be sent back to the hearing office
At this level, it can take up to 24 months or more to receive a decision if the AC decides to review your case and if so, you will receive their decision in the mail.
As of 2014, over 155,000 appeals were filed to the AC to give you an idea of their workload.
Federal District Court
If you are unsatisfied with the AC’s decision you may choose to file your claim in Federal District Court (FDC). This is generally the last stop for your claim.
The FDC operates much like the AC; however, there is a filing fee unless you meet the requirements to have this fee waived. It is highly suggested that you have an attorney at this level.
There are specific forms that must be filed and success on your claim could come down to a well written legal brief.
No matter step you’re on, here are a few tips to always keep in mind:
• Be organized-There are many forms to be completed and appointments to keep
• Document everything-Do not rely on SSA alone to keep track of all of your information
• Keep a journal of all of your symptoms and log all of your medical appointments in order to keep SSA abreast of all evidence
• Be aware of deadlines-Missed deadlines could mean the end of your claim and lost benefits
• Fill all forms out completely-Incomplete forms could delay your claim
• Hire an attorney-An attorney understands the law and how SSA determines if you are disabled
If you need help on How to Apply for Social Security Benefits or filing for benefits or appealing a denial call Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. This experienced team of lawyers knows the social security process like the back of their hand.
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