Sterling Law has successfully assisted disabled individuals throughout Northern Michigan in obtaining disability benefits with the Social Security Administration since the firm's establishment. Please do not hesitate to contact our firm for a referral to an outside Social Security disability attorney. The following is useful information in applying for and/or appealing an initial denial of disability benefits.
To boost the prospects of getting a disability application approved on the first try, and perhaps eliminate the need to appeal, a number of actions can be taken. First, understand that the Social Security Administration will consider benefits only for people who are totally disabled with a condition that will last or is expected to last at least one year or results in death. A short-term injury or illness or a partial disability will not qualify for benefits.
There are two programs available to individuals with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI), also referred to as Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration administers both programs and under both programs, individuals must meet the medical criteria to be deemed disabled.
Social Security Disability Insurance: SSD is a credit-based benefits program. Basically, benefits are paid to those individuals who are found disabled and are “insured” through the program by having worked and paid Social Security taxes. Generally, applicants for SSD will need to have worked 5 out of the last 10 years (although for applicants under age 31, there are different criteria). You will be required to submit information about all of your work for the past 15 years (or longer depending on when you are last insured for benefits). It is helpful if you have kept track of your past earnings. Your benefits will be based on your earnings and if you have records proving what they are then those records can help correct any mistaken over-or under-estimation of your benefits by SSA.
Supplemental Security Income: SSI is a financial needs-based program. Through the disability part of SSI, benefits are paid to those individuals who are found disabled and have a very low income and little assets. It is not dependent on whether you have worked or not. For some individuals, they may receive benefits through SSD and SSI – if their SSD benefits are low then they may be supplemented with SSI payments as well.
The best place to begin to prepare for the application process, whether for SSD and/or SSI, is at the government website www.ssa.gov/disability which offers answers to questions, forms, definitions, and guidelines.
In preparing to apply for disability benefits, it is helpful first to compile a list of your medical diagnoses, a list of the treatment you have received for your injury or illness, and a detailed list of your medications. You can ask the doctor(s) who treats your disability if he or she will support your disability claim and will write a letter to that effect. Having a doctor affirm that you cannot work due to your disability can strengthen your claim.
The medical record is the next item to prepare. It should include a list of the names, specialties, addresses, and phone numbers of all treating physicians, offices, and hospitals now and in the past. You can go the extra step to get copies of your complete medical file from each of your treating sources and submit them in an organized manner with your application. If you do this rather than leaving the collecting of your medical records to SSA, you can ensure that they have all your records promptly and do not miss any. You will need to provide SSA with a signed copy of their record release authorization form so they can obtain any other information they need for your claim.
Once all the records are gathered to support your application, you may apply online at www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability by phone, or schedule an appointment to apply in person at your local Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213.
If despite all best efforts the initial disability application is denied then try not to be too discouraged as some 60 to 70 percent of first-time applications are denied. From the date of the denial, you will have 60 days to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (your appeal) and it is necessary to act on this quickly. The sooner an appeal is filed, the sooner you get into line for a hearing date, and the sooner benefits may be granted. It is important to get help from a disability lawyer for this appeal to make certain your case is fully prepared before the hearing and to represent you during the hearing itself.
When you call Sterling Law at 231-486-0559 / 989-705-2326 with a Social Security Disability issue, you can expect a short phone intake process. Your information will then be referred to an outside Social Security disability attorney, or you will be given a name and number to call.