Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can seem overwhelming. With multiple stages, different appeals processes, and difficult regulations to understand, it’s important for claimants to have a clear understanding of the process. In this blog, we’ll walk you through the Social Security Disability application process, highlighting the appeals steps and providing useful information on what to expect at each step.
The Social Security Disability Application Process
- Initial Application: This is the first step where you’ll file your disability case. This process generally includes gathering detailed documentation about your medical condition, work history, and how your disability impacts your daily life..
- Average Processing Time: 3-5 months.
- Consultative Exams: If the Social Security Administration (SSA) finds the medical evidence insufficient in your case, they might schedule a consultative examination (CE) to assess the
severity of your condition. Social Security will pay for the cost of this examination and choose the medical provider who performs the examination.
- Reconsideration: If your initial application is denied, you can request a reconsideration appeal. This includes a complete review of your case by someone who wasn’t involved in the first decision.
- Average Processing Time: 3-5 months.
- Hearing:If your case is denied again at reconsideration, the next step is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) appeal. Here, you can present your case personally, bringing in witnesses and further evidence.
- Average Processing Time: 12-24
- What to Expect at the Hearing: This is a smaller, less formal proceeding than court trials. It’s important to be prepared. An advocate can guide you through what to say, which witnesses to bring, and what evidence can help prove your case
- Appeals Council: If you disagree with the hearing’s outcome, you can file an appeal and ask the Appeals Council to review your case. The Appeals Council can either decide on your case, return it to the ALJ for further review, or decline the request
- Average Processing Time: 6-12 months.
Why Understanding the Appeals Process Matters
Claimants must understand that the initial application isn’t the end of the road. While the idea of multiple stages might seem frustrating, they offer several opportunities to present your case in the best light and fix any mistakes the Social Security Administration made in their determination(s). More than half of all approved disability cases go through the appeals process. Therefore, persistence and preparation are key.
What About Consultative Exams and Hearings?
- Consultative Exams: These are medical exams scheduled by the SSA (not your primary doctor). They aim to gather more information about your disability. It’s important to attend this exam and be forthcoming about your symptoms and limitations. The cost of these exams is covered by the Social Security Administration.
- Hearings:An opportunity to make your case directly, hearings allow the judge to see and hear from you, making them a valuable part of the process. Having representation, like an advocate familiar with SSDI/SSI, can be beneficial in presenting your case successfully.
The Social Security Disability application process can be difficult, but understanding each step and its procedures allows claimants to plan their financial situations while cases are adjudicated. Preparation,
persistence, and the right advice can significantly impact the outcome.
If you find yourself lost in the SSDI or SSI application process, or if your case has been denied, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced Social Security Disability advocate at Brothers and Henderson PS. Navigating the process with expert legal advice can mean the difference between losing or winning the Social Security Disability Benefits you rightfully deserve.