Applying for disability benefits is a complicated process. Even if you don’t live with a chronic illness or suffered a horrible injury, it’s likely you would find dealing with government bureaucracy frustrating. This is why Disability Law Group, a skilled and compassionate disability law firm, has made it our mission to assist those who are facing the physical and emotional, as well as the often financial and stressful, ramifications of coping with a serious disability as they seek the benefits they are entitled to. Not only will we provide you with guidance and clarification of the process, but we will also steadfastly be there for moral support and the reassurance you deserve. Having a dedicated disability attorney and team with you every step of the way who cares about your story and the details of your case can make the world of a difference.
Documents and Information Needed to Begin the Application Process
Whether you are applying for Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on resources and assets, you will begin your application with Social Security. The application can be filed in-person at your local office, over the phone (by calling 800-772-1213), or online (at ssa.gov). Disability applications are riddled with specific questions aimed at confirming your identity and gathering information about you and your medical condition. While some people choose to file the application on their own, many people are denied at the initial level with only 60 days provided to file an appeal. Having an experienced disability attorney with you from the start ensures your application is complete and accurate so that you won’t have to wait longer than necessary for a decision. Examples of information required at the initial level include:
- Your Social Security card (or a record of your number)
- Your original birth certificate or other proof of birth
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S.
- Copy of your U.S. military service paper(s)
- Copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for the last year.
The Social Security Administration representative will also want to look at your work and tax history, your marital status, dependents’ information, and your current medication list. Additionally, the agency will need comprehensive medical information concerning your medical condition(s) – symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, hospitals and clinics, doctors’ names and contact information. You will want to make sure the information you provide is also relevant so that Social Security can review the appropriate records when evaluating the strength of your disability case.
As you can see, the application process can be overwhelming and confusing, leaving room for error. The sooner the application is submitted, and with the detailed information they’re looking for, the sooner Social Security can process the case, resulting in potentially less wait time. With our experienced team at your side from the start, you can be confident that your application will be complete and provide the most relevant and helpful information to Social Security. At Disability Law Group, each case is handled with great care and diligence, ensuring expeditious processing of claims.
The Steps Involved in Applying for SSD and/or SSI
Anyone who has dealt with government bureaucracy is well aware of the headache and stress that can follow. Applying for SSD and SSI benefits is no exception. The Social Security Administration (SSA) follows a prescribed 5-step evaluation process for each adult disability claim filed. Our attorneys will help you understand the process and what will be needed for you to win your benefits.
Step 1 – The first step the SSA takes is to examine your work record. If you are presently working, their agents will calculate how much your earnings have averaged per month during the last year. As of 2017, if you are earning over $1170 monthly ($1950 if you are blind), Social Security considers you to be engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and does not regard you as disabled. Unfortunately, this is true even if your injury or illness has significantly lowered your earning power.
Step 2 – The second step is an evaluation of the severity of your impairments. This is first accomplished by examining your medical records. In order for the SSA to consider you disabled, we must prove through medical evidence that your disability interferes with routine work-related activities. In addition, a standard of duration is applied. This means that in order to be declared fully disabled, medical professionals must expect you to be impaired for at least one year or to expect that your present condition will result in your death. As you can see, the government sets a high bar for being classified as disabled.
Step 3 – If, having examined your medical records, the SSA is still uncertain about your state of disability, your application will be sent on to the Disability Determination Services (DDS), a state-level agency under the Michigan Department of Health Services. A claims examiner at DDS will decide whether or not you meet their standards for disability.
In an attempt to simplify the evaluation process, Social Security has compiled a list of severe impairments which it uses as the standard to categorize your impairment. This list includes, but is not limited to:
- Blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia or bone marrow dysfunction
- Cancer that is aggressive, inoperable, has recurred or has metastasized
- Cardiovascular conditions, such as heart failure or coronary artery disease
- Digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or liver malfunction
- Immune system disorders, such as HIV/AIDS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
- Lung ailments, such as COPD or asthma
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as back injuries
- Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease
- Psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia
- Urological or kidney disorders
- Vision and/or hearing loss
Although Social Security uses this list to zero in on some of the most severe medical impairments, the list is not all-inclusive. Recognizing this, the SSA considers some ailments not included on their list as sufficient to qualify as equally severe in nature. Your claim of disability may be approved at this step if your condition(s) meets or medically equals one of the Listings, otherwise, the analysis will proceed to Step 4.
Step 4 – In this step, your ability to do the work you did previously is assessed. Social Security will determine if your disability gets in the way of your ability to do the work you have done for the past 15 years. If your conditions cause you to be too limited to perform your typical work, you may be found disabled under special Medical-Vocational Rules depending on your age, education, and skill-set. However, even if your conditions prohibit you from working these jobs that you are used to, SSA will still move on to the fifth and final step.
Step 5 -The last step that the Social Security Administration takes in the disability evaluation process is to figure out whether you can do other types of work available despite the limitations you may have. In order to assess your ability to work, the agency will consider several important pertinent facts, such as: your age, your level of education, your past work experience, and whether you have transferable skills for other occupations. Most disability applications come down to this fifth and final step. You will want to make sure that your claim, from the beginning once your application is filed, contains sufficient information about your work history and background information so that nothing is missed that could improperly result in a denial of benefits.
How Disability Law Group Can Help Give You the Advantage You Need
Frequently, individuals are impaired by more than one condition which can be a combination of physical, psychiatric, and/or cognitive issues. Social Security is required to consider all of your symptoms and limitations to make a fair decision. Our attorneys work hard every day to make sure that the government understands the needs and limitations of each client from the very start and throughout the appeal process if necessary. We will stand by you even if your claim is initially denied, fighting for your rights and protecting your benefits. You can contact us by phone, email, or by filling out a form on our website.