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Social Security Disability

If you have a medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year, or that will result in death, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

Which Benefits Are Right For You?

Social Security runs two disability programs:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • SSDI is for you if you have worked and paid into the Social Security system at least five of the last ten years. Remember, this is not a handout, is an insurance policy that is supposed to be there when bad health disrupts your life. After a waiting period, qualifying for SSDI also qualifies you for Medicare health coverage.
  • SSI does not require recent work history like SSDI. You qualify for SSI if you have limited income and resources. With SSI, you may also qualify for Medicaid health care coverage, food stamps and assistance paying utility bills.

How to Win Benefits

Social Security will consider you “disabled” under its rules if:

  1. You can’t do work that you did before;
  2. You can’t adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  3. Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year—or will eventually result in death.

To prove this, you will need to provide medical records and work history records when you apply.

Winning benefits requires you to seek regular medical treatment for your impairments, follow all of your doctor’s orders, see specialists when necessary and undergo testing that produces concrete medical evidence, like MRIs or CAT scans.

If You Think You Might be Eligible for Disability Benefits

Start by contacting the Social Security Administration (SSA) at their toll-free telephone number:

1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file your disability claim. You should apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. The processing of a disability benefits application can take a long time so it is critical that you get started quickly.

Reconsideration Request

What Happens If I’m Denied?

If you receive a denial for the Social Security Disability benefits that you were counting on, it can be devastating, but do not lose hope, this is not the end.

You can—and should—appeal that denial. You can be denied for many reasons, and most people are denied the first time they apply, at the initial level. With an appeal, you can correct the problems that caused your denial. Appeals can be necessary, as reapplying means losing potential benefits.

IMPORTANT: WHEN YOU RECEIVE A DENIAL, YOU HAVE 60 DAYS TO FILE YOUR APPEAL. Failure to meet the deadline means you have to start over again, delaying your benefits and possibly sending you to another

When you file for reconsideration, send updated medical records to show how your condition has deteriorated.

This is also a chance to fix weaknesses in your original application and improve the documentation in your file.

What Happens During the Reconsideration?

When you seek a reconsideration, Social Security sends your case to a new reviewer, somebody different from the person who decided to deny your benefits in the first place.

This new reviewer, however, follows the same process and rules as the first one who evaluated your claim.

You might have better success moving on to the next level of appeals—a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

Olinsky Law Group has extensive experience with hearings.

ALJ Hearing

Your next level of appeal after a reconsideration, you will attend a hearing with a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which is at the hearing level. This is the only point in the process where you can meet a decision maker on your case face to face.

When you go to a hearing, the ALJ will question you about

  • Your disability/medical condition(s)
  • How your impairments prevent you from working full-time.
  • The ALJ may bring in a vocational expert to determine whether you are able to perform your most recent job, and talk to you about some of your work history.

Your attorney will provide evidence, and present legal arguments on why you qualify.

Statistics show your chances of winning benefits are better when you have an attorney.

Administrative Law Judges have more flexibility in their decision-making than reconsideration claims reviewers. Having a skilled representative at this level can seriously affect your case.

Preparation is key.

It is highly important to have someone who knows how to respond, and ask questions of the vocational expert. Having an attorney focused on every step of your claim takes the burden of managing your disability claim off your shoulders.

You do not pay an attorney’s fee until you win benefits.