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Social Security Disability Information

If you have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits and you want to appeal the denial of your claim, an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer may be able to get your case approved and obtain benefits on your behalf.

To discuss Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, please contact Social Security Disability attorney Jeffrey S. Lichtman at 215-731-1150 or call toll free at 800-346-7600. My offices serve greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and southwestern Florida.

Social Security Disability — An Overview

If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability benefits, or if you are in the midst of appealing a denial of benefits, it is important to understand the Social Security Administration's adjudication process. In addition to fulfilling the earnings requirements that the Social Security Administration dictates, you must present a convincing and organized claim to show that your limitations from your mental and/or physical impairments arise to the level of a disability that prevents you from working. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney from The Disability Law Office of Jeffrey S. Lichtman, LLC, can offer insight and guidance in your pursuit of SSDI and/or SSI benefits.

Disability

An impairment or combination of impairments must cause serious limitations in one's ability to function for someone to qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits. The Social Security Administration also requires the applicant to have a sufficient work history to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Based upon the applicant's age, he or she must have worked for a specified number of years. The applicant also must have worked at least some of those years recently. This is because Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are "earned" with the contributions applicants have made through their Social Security taxes. Some blind applicants do not need to meet the recent work test.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is a needs-based program that helps disabled people with low income and few resources.

When To File

Deciding when to file can be a personal and challenging decision. The claims process can take a long time, so it is often wise to start early and take action as soon as you know that your injury or illness will last for a year or more. The initial decision can take a number of months. If your claim is denied — which happens in a large majority of cases — the time it takes to appeal can last a year, two years or longer, depending on where you live and the hearing office.

The Decision Process

Following the receipt of the application, a federal Social Security Administration representative will review the information. If the representative is satisfied that the application meets certain basic criteria, the application and evidentiary materials will be forwarded to a state agency that is charged with making a decision regarding the disability benefits application. The state agency may develop the file further by gathering more medical or vocational evidence.

Social Security uses a five-step process to determine whether the applicant should receive benefits, asking:

  • Whether the applicant is working
  • Whether the medical condition is severe enough to render the applicant disabled
  • Whether the impairment is on a government list of impairments granting automatic disability status (if the impairment is not on the list, that does not necessarily disqualify the applicant)
  • Whether the applicant can do the work he or she did before
  • What other types of work the applicant can to do

The state agency will return the file to the federal Social Security Administration with its recommendation. The SSA almost always adopts the state agency's disability determination. After considering all other eligibility questions, the SSA will mail the applicant a notice of its decision.

Appeals

The applicant has the right to appeal the decision. The first appeal is a reconsideration of the initial denial, typically a review by a new person of the written evidence and any additional evidence. Under a pilot program in some states, including Missouri, the reconsideration step has been eliminated and applicants go right from an initial denial to a hearing with an administrative law judge. After reconsideration, the next appeal goes to an administrative law judge for a hearing. Following this stage, the applicant has a right to appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council. Finally, the applicant may appeal to the federal courts. An attorney can offer valuable assistance in the appeals process.

Speak With An Attorney

Each step of the Social Security Disability benefits application process can be time consuming and complex. An attorney from The Disability Law Office of Jeffrey S. Lichtman, LLC, can answer your questions and help you through the qualification and appeals process.