How do I apply for Social Security Benefits?
To apply, you must submit an application to the Social Security Administration. SSDI applications can be completed online, but you will need to contact your local Social Security office to file an application in person or over the phone for SSI. State Agency Examiners collect copies of your medical records from your providers and often schedule appointments with agency-paid doctors to conduct a consultative examination. The Agency reviews all the evidence and makes an initial determination based on SSA guidelines. Only about 36% of initial applications are approved. If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal.
The first step in the appeals process is to file for reconsideration. The examiner will consider original evidence submitted with your initial application plus any additional new evidence. Only about 10% of applications are approved on reconsideration.
If you are again denied on reconsideration, the next step is to file a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You must be present at the hearing. The judge will allow your attorney to make an opening statement, ask you a series of questions, ask for testimony from the medical and vocational experts, and allow you or your attorney to make a closing statement. The assistance of an attorney can be invaluable at the hearing stage of the appeals process. The national approval rate at hearing is around 65%, and many more claimants succeed with representation.
If the ALJ again denies your claim, you may ask the Appeals Council to review the determination. The Appeals Council reviews the evidence in the record and any new evidence or written arguments. About 13% of these appeals are successful.
If the Appeals Council denies review, you can file a civil lawsuit in Federal Court. These cases are generally held before a Federal Magistrate Judge and decided based on the administrative record and the arguments presented to the court in written briefs. About 40% of disability cases taken to Federal Court are approved.
We represent clients at all stages of the application process.
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