You may have a disability or symptoms or signs of an illness or medical condition that makes it impossible to perform your job duties. You want to apply for Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You go online to start looking at the process, the requirements, the forms, the evidence required to be approved, among many other things. At this point, usually, one of two things happen:
You become overwhelmed and seriously stressed about it and so keep putting the application off for another day; or
You try to apply on your own but fail to provide sufficient supporting documentation, and so the claim is denied
There is a solution to the above problem: retain a disability benefits attorney. You do not need an attorney to apply for disability benefits, but the process of application can be rather tedious. An attorney who deeply understands the process and knows how to provide accurate and sufficient evidence of the disability, among other things, can go a long way to making sure your claim is approved.
Your paperwork has to be accurate and the supporting documentation has to be complete, appropriate, and adequate. Here's an overview of the processes for both programs and why hiring us at the Law Office of Madeline M. McIntosh is to your benefit.
Here is an overview of the process, including the process to appeal a denial.
The forms for both SSDI and SSI benefits are found online and can be filed online with the exception of SSI benefits, where you usually need to make an appointment at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to complete the application. We help you thoroughly fill out your application and other paperwork involved, at no charge to you.
Your answers must be specific and failure to answer the question can lead to a denial or loss of retroactive pay. For example, you must provide the alleged onset date of the disability. This matters because you can receive retroactive pay as far back as 12 months from the date you applied for benefits if you were disabled prior to applying for disability.
Also, there's no retroactive pay for SSI benefits, so you will want to apply as soon as possible.
Second, proving the disability or medical condition meets the legal requirement of disability is not easy. It requires treatment via medical evidence, including your doctor's diagnosis, testing, and other proof that standard medical procedures for the specific condition were undergone and provided for via documentation, expert testimony or consultations, among other forms of evidence. You may simply not know the extent of the evidence required and, as a result, provide insufficient evidence that will result in a denial.
After you submit the application, the disability claims are processed first through a local SSA field office regardless if you filed online, by mail, or in person. The field office verifies non-medical eligibility requirements, including things like:
Citizenship and residency
Social Security coverage
For SSI benefits, the field office also verifies:
The application is then processed through a network of state agencies, known as Disability Determination Services (DDS). The DDS reviews and investigates the medical part of your application and makes the determination about your disability. The DDS will look into the medical sources you provided. If it finds what you provided is insufficient, it will arrange a consultative examination (CE) to establish more evidence of your disability.
The DDS will make a determination and send the case back to the field office. The field office will act on the DDS's decision and either:
Compute the benefit amount and begin disability payments for approved claims; or
Retain the file and inform the applicant that the claim was denied and he or she can file an appeal
If your claim was denied, you should appeal the decision. The appeal works the same way as the initial claim, but a new team at the DDS will handle the appeal. The determination in this instance is known as a reconsideration determination.
If you are unhappy with the reconsideration determination (i.e., your claim was denied again), you can request a hearing at the Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) and before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). During this part of the process, you can provide new and additional evidence. Sometimes, in more complex cases, the ALJ may subpoena more evidence or testimony.
The benefit of an attorney to help you file your disability are many, including:
We can help complete forms accurately and quickly, making the process more efficient, more likely to succeed, and less stressful and we do not charge a fee for this service.
We make sure that the disability is one that qualifies for disability benefits.
We will make sure that proper, complete, and the evidence is provided regarding your disability claim.
We are able to file an appeal to further assist you in gaining the benefits you may be entitled to.
Fees are collected only if you are successful in your claim for benefits assistance. If your case is denied you do NOT owe anything. As well, we are paid twenty-five percent of the total of your past-due benefits if you are successful.
Importantly as well, the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 161.202(a)(3)-(4) conditions that a health care provider or a health care facility may NOT charge a fee for medical or mental health records when requested by a patient, former patient, an attorney or an authorized representative of the patient or former patient, when: the records are supporting an application for disability benefits, other benefits or assistance which you may be eligible for, or for an appeal with regard to the denial of benefits or assistance with regard to SSD or SSI.
Accordingly, a fee should NOT be charged to obtain medical records in support of your SSD or SSI claim.
We at the Law Office of Madeline M. McIntosh understand the process and know what needs to be done to optimize your chances of being granted Social Security disability benefits. Contact our Dallas office today to schedule an initial free consultation to learn more about how you may qualify for disability benefits.