Injured workers, such as those that are eligible for Workers’ Compensation, should apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as they become unable to work. You can apply for Social Security disability benefits by scheduling an appointment with a Social Security Administration (SSA) representative at a field office closest to you, or by applying online. A claims representative be assigned to your case and will answer any questions you may have about the application process. He or she will also handle the paperwork needed to send your claim to an office known as Disability Determination Services (DDS), which will make an initial determination as to whether you are considered disabled under the SSA’s requirements. The claims representative will also determine the disability programs for which you may be eligible to receive based on your work history.
We highly encourage applicants to speak with a Social Security disability attorney before beginning the application process. An attorney will be able to explain the process for filing for benefits and gather the documents needed to submit a claim. Nearly 60% of all first-time applicants are initially denied disability benefits, and close to 90% of applicants seek the help of a representative at some point in the process. The process of applying and appealing denied claims is often complicated, and the chances of success are far greater with the help of an experienced Social Security disability attorney. Retaining an attorney can increase your chances of approval and help avoid denials based on technicalities or other common errors. Our experienced attorneys can help gather information vital to your claim’s success and ensure you complete the steps necessary for obtaining benefits.
If you hire a Social Security disability attorney, they will help you with your claim, and he or she will guide you through the following process:
Preparation: preparing a claim, which will include gathering documents and other required information is an essential part of the claims process. An attorney can help gather the documentation needed to substantiate your claim, such as personal information (including information on your children or spouse); military information, if applicable; IRS forms; bank account information; addresses and phone numbers; detailed medical records and referral; medication history; a list of prior employment history; and information on other disability claims, if applicable.
You will be required to submit extensive documentation to the SSA, and determining which information is required for your claim can be a difficult process. An attorney can help ensure your claim satisfies the SSA’s requirements, which can help expedite the application process. He or she can also assist in gathering documents the you are unable to access on your own.
Communication: an attorney can keep track of the status of your claim, alert you to any request for new information, and speak with the Social Security Administration representatives on your behalf to answer questions that may arise regarding your application. At Wyskiel, Boc, Tillinghast and Bolduc, P. A., we understand that many applicants work and care for their families and may not have the time needed to deal with the SSA as it reviews their claim.
Appeal: if your application for benefits was not approved, you may be able to file an appeal with an attorney. You must file a written request within 60 days of receiving the decision letter. Your claim will then go through four levels of appeal, including:
Reconsideration: if your initial application for benefits is been denied, your attorney will file a request for reconsideration. During this stage, a claims examiner who was not involved in the initial review process will consider your application. They will take into consideration any new evidence that you or your attorney have uncovered to supplement your claim. Your attorney can respond on your behalf to any questions posed by the claim’s examiner during this stage.
Hearing: if your claim is repeatedly denied, or if you do not agree with the results, the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). During this stage, your attorney may prepare you for questions that you could be asked at your hearing; request the judge to subpoena witnesses vital to proving the legitimacy of your claim; argue your case before the judge; question witnesses and experts; present new evidence or information you believe was not reviewed properly; and, if you have already been awarded benefits, asked the judge to review and reassess the calculations.
Appeals Council: if the judge’s determination does not suit your needs, and you are dissatisfied, you could ask for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. However, know that the Council is not required to grant you another hearing. If you are granted a secondary determination, your case may be resolved or presented to the ALJ. If the latter occurs, your attorney will essentially have to repeat the steps taken in the initial hearing.
Federal Court: if your claim is denied for review in front of an ALJ, or if you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you can file a lawsuit in Federal District Court.