Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is long and complicated process that often proves too much to handle for unrepresented claimants. One of the major problems is that the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) has created a system that is essentially designed to deny most claims. In fact, more than half of all applications are initially denied. There is often no connection to whether the claims for benefits had merits or not. It is more a matter of agency policy.
After the initial application is denied, claimants can appeal this denial in writing. When an appeal is submitted, a co-worker of the SSA employee who denied the application will determine if the denial was appropriate. Basically, this is a peer review process whereby the person in the next cubicle will rubberstamp their co-worker’s denial.
Our disability attorneys in Boston know, after a series of appeals, claimants have the opportunity to apply for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) who is employed by SSA.
As a recent news article in the OC Register explains, there is a backlog of at least eight months to get an ALJ hearing in many jurisdictions. One person interviewed in this article had spent years working to help the elderly before becoming disabled herself. For her, the process took a total of 18 months. The eight-month backlog was a major part of the delay.
Her illness began in 2008, when she started developing serious respiratory problems and came down with pneumonia. She had to see around 40 doctors before learning the cause of her illness. No one seemed to know what was wrong with her, but her condition was getting worse. Soon she had trouble walking. She developed numbness so substantial, she could not tell if she was being burned by a hot object.
By this point, her lungs and heart were deteriorating, and she couldn’t continue working. She hired an attorney who helped her apply for SSDI benefits. Her situation was more complex than most, because she was not able to state the cause of her disability.
Ultimately, it was clear that, regardless of the cause of her mysterious illness, she was obviously disabled and unable to work, and was awarded benefits for this disability. Due to the length of time it took to secure a benefits award from SSA, she was entitled to retroactive pay for the time spent fighting for benefits.
One of the best things claimants can do is to consult with an attorney who regularly handles these types of matters as early in the process as possible. This will maximize the chances for obtaining a full and appropriate benefits award, while also increasing the chances of obtaining that award in less time. This is because your attorney will know how the system works and how to gather appropriate evidence and best prepare a claim that will convince SSA to make a finding of disability, which is required before any benefits are awarded under the Social Security Disability Insurance program.
If you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
More Blog Entries:
Williams v. Colvin: Determining the Date of Disability for the Purpose of SSDI, August 10, 2014, Boston Disability Lawyers Blog