Strokes are the number one cause of severe long-term disability in the United States. Of the almost 800,000 people a year that suffer strokes in the US, thousands are left unable to live their normal lives as they did before. After such an event, it can be especially frustrating to have your initial application denied.
If you had your initial stroke disability application denied, you are not alone — 60-65% of all disability applications like yours are denied on their first attempt each year. Before you continue with the process, let’s first what could have happened with your initial application.
Difficulties of Applying With a Stroke
Strokes are covered in the Social Security’s Blue Book under Section 11.04: “Vascular Insult to the Brain.” Unlike some disability listings, the listing for strokes is rather vague and may be up to some level of interpretation. This is potentially one of the reasons your stroke application may have been denied.
For example, subsection C of this listing states that applicants can qualify with a stroke if they demonstrate “marked limitation in physical functioning” and with either a) understanding, remembering, or applying information, b) interacting with others, c) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace, or d) adapting or managing oneself. The best way to qualify for this subsection (or any, for that matter) is to speak with your physician and supply as much evidence on your condition as possible.
Another reason your application may have been denied is due to timing. For instance, all subsections of this Blue Book entry require symptoms to persist for at least 3 consecutive months after the insult. If a reviewer has cause to believe that these three consecutive months were not fulfilled, then its possible they could have denied you benefits. To combat this, be sure to renew motor function tests, residual functional capacity tests, cognitive tests, MRIs, and CT scans to accurately represent your case to the SSA.
Preparing for Your Hearing
Disability hearings are basically an in-person version of your initial application. At a hearing, you will present your disability case to an administrative law judge (ALJ) who has the power to overturn your case decision and declare you qualified for benefits. Because of the long wait list, it is always best to schedule your hearing as soon as you decide to move forward with your case. Hearings can be scheduled at your nearest ODAR (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review) which can be located using the SSA’s online ODAR tool. If you are unable to make it in person for your hearing when the time comes, you can contact the office by their phone number and potentially schedule a video hearing instead.
Before your hearing, be sure to prepare the following support for your case:
- all original medical and financial documents provided on your initial application, as well as the initial application itself
- updated medical and financial documents (as many as you can get) to provide as comparison and show your current state
- testimonies from important persons (physicians, therapists, old bosses/coworkers, neighbors, loved ones) that can attest to the severity of your condition
Also consider consulting with your physician and calling your local Social Security office if you have any questions about what you can (or should) bring to your hearing.
Considering a Disability Attorney
Disability attorneys exist to help people just like you to get the benefits they deserve. Especially for those heading to disability hearings, attorneys can:
- organize your medical and financial paperwork
- reduce the stress of hearing preparation by taking the hard work on themselves
- keep in contact with the SSA on your behalf and potentially speed the process along
- craft a legally-sound defense of your case in court to improve your chances of approval
And, even better, disability attorneys are federally required to only work on contingency, meaning they are not allowed to take payment until they win your case. You can speak with a local disability attorney today for a free consultation to see if their services may be right for you.