The truth behind the grueling application and appeals processes
There is a common misconception that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is equivalent to “free money.” People who are granted benefits receive a monthly sum to cover costs, but it is by no means an easy process to apply for them — and certainly not one you would want to attempt without assistance.
Here are a few reasons why the grueling application and appeals processes are more difficult than one would expect and how you can get help from an attorney if you are applying for benefits or appealing a decision.
Most People Are Denied When They Apply for Benefits
After going through a lengthy application process, millions of Americans who applied for disability benefits are denied. Studies show that around 65% of people are rejected the first time they apply.
You Must Earn a Low Amount of Income to Qualify
It can be distressing to have a disability yet make too much money to qualify for SSDI.
One of the requirements to qualify for Social Security disability benefits is that you fall within the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) threshold. It defines what is considered doing too much work to be considered eligible — you can’t earn more than $1,220 a month or $2,040 if you are blind. Volunteering or even participating in criminal activities can be considered SGA if you spend enough time participating in them.
This income requirement leads to many disability applicants’ living in poverty while they wait for their claim to be approved.
You Need to Make Sure You Have All the Correct Paperwork
Gathering the paperwork you need for an SSDI application can be overwhelming. One of the top reasons applicants are denied is because they are missing important documentation or don’t turn in the correct paperwork.
Often, people don’t understand which medical evidence they need to provide. If you are applying for Social Security benefits, you must show medical documents from your primary care doctor as well as your treatment history, results from any medical tests, and records from when you were hospitalized if you had to receive emergency treatment.
The Appeals Process Can Take Years
Since the majority of disability applicants are denied, they’ll have to suffer through a long and challenging appeals process if they decide to continue fighting for benefits.
The reconsideration stage (the first part of the appeals process) takes between 90 and 120 days, but the next parts can be much longer. If disability claimants are denied during reconsideration, they can request a disability hearing. Claimants may wait up to a few years before they are given a hearing date due to the massive backlog of requests at Social Security offices.
It can take around two years for a claimant to file an application, request a reconsideration, wait for a decision, and get a hearing scheduled. After the disability hearing, a claimant will usually hear back if they are approved or denied within eight weeks. Some claimants may wait several months before they receive a final decision.
Pro Tip: If you are faced with an unfavorable decision, it is best to file your appeal as soon as you get your denial letter. This can save you a few months of processing time.
It Can Be Nerve-Wracking to Discuss Your Disability at a Hearing
If a disability claimant decides to appeal their claim, they will most likely end up having a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge.
Many people feel nervous or embarrassed to discuss the intimate details of living with a disability and how it affects their ability to work. If they hide details or exaggerate the truth, they will likely be denied benefits.
If you are going through the appeals process, a qualified disability lawyer can prepare you to answer the law judge’s questions about your condition and advise you on the best manner to discuss your disability. Remember, your hearing is your best chance of getting approved for benefits during the appeals process. Do everything in your power to be ready.
You Don’t Have to Face This Process Alone
The application and appeals processes can be exhausting and confusing, especially if you are operating on your own.
An experienced disability attorney can help you through every step of the process — from navigating technical terminology and making sure you turn in the correct paperwork to fighting for the benefits you rightfully deserve. You don’t have to pay upfront costs when hiring an attorney, and you pay your lawyer only if they win your case.
If you’re looking for an attorney to assist you with the grueling application or appeals process, get in touch with us today. Our lawyers have decades of experience working hard-to-win cases for our clients — and we’ll stand by your side every step of the way.