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Appealing Social Security disability claims can be time-consuming

The two disability programs offered by the Social Security Administration, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, are not welfare. They are safety net programs, but to qualify for SSDI, you have to have paid into the insurance program through the payroll tax called the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICO. To qualify for SSI, you must have extremely limited resources. For either Social Security disability program, you have to prove you have a severe, qualifying disability that is considered a “total disability,” meaning:

  • You cannot do work that you did before
  • The SSA determines you can't adjust to other work because of your disability, and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death

Proving that you do have a severe, qualifying, total disability takes medical evidence as well as voluminous information about your daily routine, work history and medical treatment, along with evidence of your work limitations. These all must be verified by the SSA, which often requires applicants to undergo an evaluation by a doctor or psychologist consulting for the agency. SSA medical consultants may further review the records to determine whether your disability qualifies you for Social Security disability benefits.

Unfortunately, this complex process results in approximately two-thirds of all applications being initially denied. Legitimate applicants should not be deterred, however. According to the SSA’s own data, around 49 percent of all claimants eventually do receive benefits.

The appeals process, however, can be both time-consuming and complex. The SSA has instituted an online appeals process, but if a hearing needs to be scheduled, you may wait up to a year. That waiting time also applies to any subsequent appeals before the Appeals Council or a federal court. Some applicants are forced to wait through as many as five years of litigation before their benefits are finally approved.

The Social Security Administration is working hard to move claims through the application and appeals processes more quickly, but budget constraints and political issues continue to get in the way. Additionally, as the average age of an American rises, the chance that American will become disabled goes up too, because people are more prone to disabilities as they age.

This information is not meant to discourage you from filing for Social Security disability or from appealing a denied claim. The important thing is to understand what you need to show the SSA in order to prove your disability -- and that’s an area where an attorney may be able to help you.

Source: The Philadelphia Public Record, “UNDERSTANDING Social Security: It’s A Long, Long Wait To Get SSI, SSD,” Michael P. Boyle, Esq., Aug. 1, 2013

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