Social Security Disability: The Initial Application Stage

The initial stage of the Social Security Disability process involves the initial filing of your Social Security Disability application and the Social Security Administration's review of your initial claim. In this stage of the process you will be filling out your initial application and providing the SSA with the documentation necessary to process your claim for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security office will then send your file to be reviewed for approval or denial based on the information provided in your initial application.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can file your application for Social Security Disability online, over the phone or at your local Social Security office. You will be required to answer questions pertaining to your disability and your work history and will likely have to fill out a detailed Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire. It is important to prepare as much as possible before you apply to have the best chance of getting approved. Your medical records will need to be provided to the Social Security examiner and you may be asked to undergo a consultative exam. There must be evidence that your disability will last twelve months or longer in order to qualify for disability benefits. They should also help support that you meet the Blue Book listing for the condition you are experiencing.

When applying for disability benefits, you will be required to provide the Social Security office with certain personal information. It is helpful to have this information ready when completing your application for Social Security Disability benefits. Some of the personal information and documentation needed to complete your application include your social security number, your birth or baptismal certificate, the contact information for your doctors and the dates of your visits, the names and dosages of the medications you are taking, a complete history of your medical records, a copy of your most recent W-2 and a detailed work history.

Evaluating Your Claim for Social Security Disability Benefits

Once you have submitted your application, the Social Security office will check to see whether or not you have worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits and whether your current employment status disqualifies you from receiving disability benefits. If you meet the necessary criteria, the Social Security office will send your application to the Disability Determination Services department for a full review. It is this department that will be making the actual decision as to whether or not your disability claim is approved.

The Disability Determination Services office will review the information and medical records you have provided with your application for disability benefits. If the examiner reviewing your case does not have enough medical documentation to prove your disability, he or she may require you to attend a consultative exam. In some cases, more than one consultative exam may be requested.

After the Disability Determination Services have received all of the information needed to process your claim the employees with gather to evaluate the information within your file and will make a decision based on that information. They will approve or deny your claim based on the medical evidence provided, whether or not your specific disability is included in the Social Security Listing of Impairments, if you are able to perform the work you were doing prior to your disability and whether or not you are capable of performing any type of work at all.

Once the SSA approves or denies your claim they will send you a letter notifying you of the decision. If you are approved for benefits, your letter will state the amount of your monthly benefits and when those benefits will begin. If your application was not approved, the letter will explain why you were denied Social Security Disability benefits and what you need to do if you want to appeal the decision.

The Disability Determination Services only approves approximately 37 percent of the initial Social Security Disability applications received by the SSA. The remaining 63 percent of applicants are denied benefits. Many of those denied applicants go on to appeal the decision made by the Disability Determination Services. Hired a qualified disability lawyer will improve chances of being approved at the initial stage.

The Application Processing Time-Frame

It normally takes between three to six months for a Social Security Disability applicant to find out if they qualify on their initial application. The exception to this rule is those applicants who qualify for Social Security's Compassionate Allowance program. The Compassionate Allowance program helps people with severe disabilities get approved for Social Security Disability benefits more quickly. If you have one of the disabilities listed under the Compassionate Allowance program, your initial application may be processed in as little as twenty days.

Time Line When Applying

If you are unable to work because of a medical condition, you will want to get your disability application underway. Here are a few steps to help you get your disability claim underway properly.

  • First, you need to make a detailed list of your medical providers. Include the name of the healthcare provider, the address and contact details, and the dates for services provided.
  • Gather proof of identification, such as your birth certificate and Social Security card.
  • Complete the disability application in detail, making sure every question is answered truthfully and in detail. Don’t leave any questions blank.
  • Provide a detailed list of your work history. List places of employment, job titles, dates of employment, and your job responsibilities or duties.
  • Provide a detailed description of your educational background.
  • Provide other details about your restrictions or limitations and how your ability to work is negatively affected by your medical conditions.

How The Disability Application Process Works

You need to understand how the disability process works. There are several steps to getting a claim approved. Here is how it works and what you need to do throughout the claims process.

  • File the initial claim. Make sure you complete the application in detail and send it to your local Social Security office.
  • Your medical records will be requested. They will check to see if your medical problem meets the criteria of a disability listing.
  • You will be sent additional forms to fill out. Be sure to complete these and return them in a timely manner.
  • Your claim will be reviewed by the local Social Security office and you will receive a decision. Most likely, the claim will be denied during the initial review.
  • You will receive a denial letter. This letter will explain why your claim was denied and how long you have so you can file an appeal.
  • You will want to file a request for reconsideration. This is sometimes is called an appeal.
  • Supply the additional information to support your claim by the deadline so they will have more information to review during the appeals process.
  • Your claim will be reviewed again. Any additional medical records will be obtained.
  • You may be sent for a consultative exam by the SSA.
  • The disability examiner will determine if the decision was correct or if an error was made when your file was reviewed initially.
  • In 2 to 4 months, you will receive a decision in the mail regarding your claim.
  • If your claim is denied, the denial notice will specify why and the process for filing an appeal will be explained along with the deadlines.
  • If your claim is denied at the reconsideration level, you will want to request a hearing before an administrative law judge.
  • If you don’t already have an attorney, you will want to get one at this point.
  • Your application will be transferred to the administrative law judge’s office and a hearing will be set up.
  • You will be notified of the hearing date, location and the judge.
  • You may be given additional forms to fill out.
  • You or your attorney will gather and submit the medical records for review.
  • Your lawyer will submit a brief to the judge for review.
  • Your file will be reviewed by the judge.
  • You will appear before the judge and there will be a hearing.
  • Your case will be reviewed after the hearing.
  • It will take a few weeks before you receive a decision.
  • Your claim is either approved or denied. If denied, you can either ask for a review by an Appeals Council or you can start your application anew.

Speeding Up the Process

You can speed up the process. Most claims are denied during the initial review, but there are things that you can do to make sure your claim is on track more quickly and that you get approved for benefits much more quickly. By making sure you have the supporting medical documentation that meets the listing criteria, you can speed up the approval process.

If your condition clearly meets the listing criteria, then your claim will be approved. If your condition is on the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) list, then you will just need to provide documentation to confirm the diagnosis to have your claim approved.

Be sure to read over the listings that apply to your condition then make sure you have the medical evidence to meet the listing. Your disability lawyer will be able to help you make sure your medical evidence supports your claim so it can be approved. With the help of an attorney, you are going to be able to build a stronger claim and get approved for benefits.

If you don’t meet the listing criteria, then go ahead and your physician complete an RFC. This will help provide the evidence that Disability Determination Services needs to approve your claim. The RFC will give them the full picture of your condition, its severity, your restrictions and limitations and what you can and cannot do. With the help of a lawyer, your claim will proceed much more smoothly.

By enlisting the help of a disability attorney, you will get your claim underway more efficiently and effectively. A disability lawyer is familiar with the claims process and will be able to tell if your condition meets the criteria for approval. Your attorney will gather the supporting documentation and will also be able to determine if any additional testing or medical evidence is needed to get your claim approved.

Research has proven that claimants represented by disability lawyers are three times more likely to be approved for disability benefits. When you retain a lawyer, you will not have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket. Instead, your attorney will take the case on a contingency basis. That means he or she is only paid if - and when - your claim is approved and then you receive your backpay. Get a free case review today to determine how to proceed.