The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monetary benefits to individuals that qualify based on a disability that meets SSA statutes or, in the case of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are low income eligible. The process of filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI will vary for each individual, as each individual’s situation is unique. An attorney at Pyfer, Reese, Straub, Gray & Farhat, P.C. is available to assist you at any stage throughout the filing process, beginning with a free consultation.
Filing an Initial Application
The initial application can be filed in person at a local Social Security office, over the phone, by mail, or online at ssa.gov. If applying via paper forms, these will be sent to you in the mail for you to complete. While the initial application may seem straightforward, there are steps that you can take to best ensure that you are approved at the application level.
Accurate completion of these forms is critical to the decision that will be made in your case. The forms should be filled out appropriately and returned promptly. An applicant may be required to have an examination by SSA doctors during this time. The best steps for an individual to take at the application level are unique in each case and would require review prior to advice being provided. This first level can require approximately 3-6 months before a determination is made on your application.
Request for Reconsideration
If your initial application is denied, you can file an appeal within 60 days of receipt of the Notice of Decision. The application and all materials gathered by the Social Security office are reviewed by a new disability examiner during the reconsideration process. Additional medical records will be obtained by the Social Security office, and you also have the opportunity to submit additional supporting documentation during this time. Forms may be sent to you in the mail, again, for your completion. You may be sent to the SSA doctors if you haven’t seen one previously, or you may be sent for a second appointment. This reconsideration level can require approximately 2-4 months before a determination is made on your application.
Request for Administrative Law Judge Hearing
If your reconsideration request is denied, you can file an appeal within 60 days of receipt of the Notice of Decision. When a hearing is requested by filing an appeal, your case will be reviewed and assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Hearings are presently being conducted by telephone, video conferencing technology, or in person (with lengthy delays for in-person hearings).
Significant background work must be completed in order to appropriately prepare for an ALJ Hearing. Medical records must be requested by you, after a close review of the exhibits that SSA already has in your file. A pre-hearing memorandum should be written and submitted in your case, isolating the issues and reasons you should receive a fully favorable decision.
The ALJ Hearing is conducted in a five-step process with the questioning directed by the ALJ. It is highly unusual for the ALJ to issue a decision during your hearing, but it has happened. You will likely be waiting an additional 2-4 months for the ALJ’s decision to be issued in a letter to you. This ALJ Hearing level can require approximately 17-22 months before a determination is made on your application.
Request for Appeals Council Review
If you are found unfavorable by the Administrative Law Judge after your hearing, you can file an appeal within 60 days of receipt of the Notice of Decision. At this time, an assessment should be made as to whether it is best in your situation to continue appealing your case to the Appeals Council or if you should refile a new application for benefits. The Appeals Council may deny your case review, may affirm the decision of the ALJ, may remand your case for a new hearing with a new ALJ, may remand your case for another hearing before the same ALJ, or may overturn the ALJ’s decision and find your case fully favorable. This Appeals Council level can require approximately 8-18 months before a determination is made on your appeal.
Request for Federal Court Review
If you are denied review by the Appeals Council, you can file an appeal within 60 days of receipt of the Notice. At this time, you will need to file a civil suit in a Federal District Court in the jurisdiction in which you live. There is a filing fee associated with filing the civil action in Federal Court. The Federal Court review level timing is particular to each case and the case load of the Court at the time of filing.
If you need assistance in your social security disability insurance or supplemental security income case, please do not hesitate to reach out to an attorney at Pyfer, Reese, Straub, Gray & Farhat, P.C. for a free consultation. Several members of our team, including Lancaster and Ephrata social security law attorneys Gabriella Hashem Farhat and Megan H. Herr, have expertise in this area of the law and can assist you in completing your application to maximize your potential for an approved claim. Certainly, if you are beyond the application process, have been denied, and are in need of assistance with the appeal or at the hearing level, we can also help you. We will evaluate your eligibility and circumstances to determine the best path for your application or appeal, and we will fight to gain these benefits for you.