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Disability Benefits Application Process Extremely Difficult for Unrepresented Claimants

According to a recent news feature from AL.com, the Social Security disability system is virtually impossible to navigate without legal representation, according to applicants.

flip-calendar-1-1281977-m.jpgOne disability benefits applicant waited four years for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to approve her application. She had worked as a nurse for 13 years at a local hospital but began to suffer from severe gastrointestinal issues that required bypass surgery. It is thought that bypass surgery was the cause of her developing pancreatitis.

She is 44 years-of-age and can no longer continue to work as a nurse. She applied for benefits and was rejected. After waiting years to get her application approved, her former employer hired an attorney to represent her on her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) case, and, with assistance from her attorney, she was finally awarded benefits.

Her husband applied for benefits for himself nearly a year ago and his hearing is scheduled for the end of 2015. He was working for a construction company but can no longer work due a nerve disorder. He was diagnosed with cauda equine syndrome. Surgeons treated his condition by placing rods and pins in his spine. With both of them unable to work, they are having trouble surviving without disability benefits.

As our Boston SSDI disability attorneys can explain, the SSA has created a process that is essentially designed to delay and deny claimants who apply for benefits. Unrepresented claimants are at a significant disadvantage and can vastly increase their chances of receiving a full and appropriate benefits award by having someone on their side who regularly represents claimants in disability matters.

Another person interviewed was a 52-year-old man who had the help of an attorney from the beginning of the process. He suffers from a severe lung disease and is on the transplant list. His attorney prepared all documentation based upon the factors that the SSA would use in making a determination, and his application was approved in three months.

Based upon the severity of his illness, his attorney applied for what SSA calls Compassionate Allowances that allowed for his case to be decided in a matter of weeks instead of years. As his attorney noted, many do not realize this option is available to claimants who can properly document that their condition qualifies for fast tracked review.

It is not new that SSA makes the process very difficult for unrepresented claimants in need of benefits. It all starts with the fact that almost all applications are initially denied. At this point, claimants can request a review of the denial. At this stage in the process, the denied application is typically reviewed under a peer review process by a coworker of the SSA employee who made the initial denial. As one could imagine, very few applications that were initially denied are awarded benefits at this stage in the process.

Eventually, claimants are entitled to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) who hears testimony from Vocational Experts (VEs) hired by SSA and a doctor paid by SSA to determine if the claimant is entitled to benefits.

If you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Social Security disability system near impossible to navigate without legal help, applicants say, October 20, 2014, AL.com

More Blog Entries:

Williams v. Colvin: Determining the Date of Disability for the Purpose of SSDI
, August 10, 2014, Boston Disability Lawyers Blog