The process for obtaining Social Security Disability benefits is not always self-evident. There are many hurdles and the old tongue in cheek adage of “I’m from the government and I am here to help you” applies.
In the labyrinth of the Social Security Administrations disability application process there are several major processes. There is, or course, the initial application. If successful, you are done. If not, you may file for so-called “reconsideration.” If you are approved at the reconsideration level, once again, you are done. If not, you may then request a hearing before and Administrative Law Judge. If the Judge approves the claim, you are done. If not, you may then request a review by the Appeals Council and thereafter in the United States District Court.
1. THE INITIAL APPLICATION: The first step in your quest for benefits is the initial application to your local Social Security Office. You should make sure that you have obtained sufficient medical documentation to support your claim for disability. It is important to let your treating doctor know that you are seeking disability benefits and to make sure that the doctors records are complete and that they fully document the diagnosis, treatment and assessment of the disabling condition in concrete terms. A mere statement from your doctor that he or she thinks you are “disabled” is never sufficient.
If your disability claim is approved, you will receive a written notice from the Social Security Administration, showing the amount of the monthly benefit you will receive and the date on which payments will start. In general, you will receive your first Social Security disability check in the sixth full month after you became disabled. Along with your check, you will also get a copy of a booklet describing your responsibilities as a disability payment beneficiary. Among these responsibilities are providing notice to the Social Security Administration if your condition improves enough to allow you to perform substantial gainful work.
2. RECONSIDERATION: If your initial claim is denied, or if you disagree with any decision made by the Social Security Administration in handling your claim, you have the right to appeal the decision. This first “appeal” is known as a request for reconsideration and it will lead to reconsideration of your file by persons within the Social Security Administration other than those who made the initial decision you are appealing. You have 60 days from the day you receive notice that your initial claim was denied to request reconsideration. When you receive the initial denial notice, you should immediately set up and appointment with a Social Security Disability attorney at Bromberg Rosenthal LLC for an initial consultation at no cost to you and we will explain the full process and provide an initial recommendation.
3. HEARING BEFORE AN ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE: If you are denied your claim at the reconsideration level, you may then appeal for a hearing before an administrative law judge. While you can present your own claim before the judge, our firm has the experience and knowledge to obtain the necessary information and testimony that will be important to assisting you in getting your benefits. Typically within 30-60 days after the hearing , the Judge will issue a written opinion regarding your claim.
4. APPEALS COUNCIL AND US DISTRICT COURT: If the administrative law judge fails to grant your benefits or address your concerns, you may then request a review of the judges decision by the Appeals Council. Such reviews, unfortunately, can take more than a year or two to work through the system.
5. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT: Finally, if the Appeals Council does not send the case back to the Judge for a review, you may then file an appeal in the U.S. District Court.