Question: I suffer from severe, chronic back pain that keeps me from working a full time job. I have tried to work but can’t keep a job due to needing additional breaks or taking off when I have a bad day to deal with the pain. Do I qualify for Social Security benefits and what is the process?
Answer PART 1: I will address this question in two separate posts due to the length. I have been representing disabled individuals in claims for Social Security benefits for over fifteen years. The process is time consuming for most claimants. On average, you can expect a wait of two years from the time you first apply and the time you receive a favorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge. You may be qualified to receive two kinds of Social Security benefits. If you have worked and paid your Federal taxes for a sufficient period of time you will qualify for Disability benefits. If you do not qualify for Disability but are disabled you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you meet certain asset criteria. In some cases you may qualify to receive both Disability and SSI.
Here are the steps in a nutshell:
1. Go to www. ssa.gov. Complete the online application for Disability and/or SSI benefits. The process is fairly simple. A telephone appointment with SSA will be scheduled after your online application is filed.
2. You will either be approved or denied usually within the next three months. Expect to be contacted by Disability Determination Services (DDS). They may even send you to a medical professional for a consultative examination.
3. When you are denied, and close to 90% of applicants are denied, you only have sixty days from the decision to file an appeal.
4. Retain an experienced Social Security lawyer immediately!
5. File the appeal called a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the other forms required. This became an online process earlier this year. In fact, all attorneys must file the appeal online.
6. You will have a hearing usually within the next 12-17 months where you may present evidence and testimony to an ALJ. It is the ALJ’s job to determine if the SSA’s denial was correct.
7. If you lose, you can appeal to the Appeals Council located in Falls Church, Virginia. It will take approximately two years for a decision. If you lose this appeal you may then appeal by filing suit in Federal Court against the SSA.
I hope this is very helpful. The process is lengthy and I highly recommend that you retain legal counsel after your initial denial. In my opinion, there is not a whole lot at the initial application stage that an attorney can effectively do to assist you. However, as soon as you receive your denial you should immediately hire an attorney who practices this type of law. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate contact the Davidson Law Firm.