I have been dealing with the Social Security Disability Laws since 1972. Over the years there have been dramatic changes in the ways that the Administration deals with claimants. It has never been an easy process to obtain benefits; now it is harder than ever. Last year there were 2,582,092 Social Security Disability claims filed. Of that initial number only 33% were allowed. At the reconsideration level less than 12% were approved. If you have the persistence to stay through the hearing level the national average for an ALJ to rule in your favor is only 45%. The Maryland Office of Disability and Review is slightly above the national average and stands at 47%. Unfortunately, this means that you have less than a 50/50 chance of having your benefits awarded to you.
Although you can file your own initial application online I believe that it is best to engage a lawyer from the beginning. Some of the questions are confusing and complicated. Depending on the way they are answered there could be misinterpretation by the examiner processing the case or the ALJ at the hearing level.
Having the proper medical documentation to substantiate your claim is very important. Often times a doctor may state to a claimant that he or she believes you are disabled, and may annotate your records accordingly, but that opinion does not suffice for Social Security Disability purposes. Often times there can be hundreds of pages of medical records that need to be summarized and accompanied with a letter or form highlighting the points that go to prove that someone meets the definition of disability as stated by the Social Security Administration.
Additionally, it is important to have an exact work history. In order to receive Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits you must meet “insured status” and that usually involves the 20/40 test; basically meaning you had to have worked 5 of the last 10 years. Some claimants stop working for various reasons and later become disabled and not able to work. In those circumstances the quarters of coverage that are required for SSDI need to be closely examined. The Administration uses a term DLI (Date Last Insured). If you are alleging that your disability began after your DLI then you will not be eligible for SSDI. However, you may qualify for SSI benefits.
SSI benefits are different then SSDI benefits in that they have an income and resources component to them. You may be disabled but other factors may preclude you from receiving SSI benefits. SSDI benefits are not affected by these matters.
In summary, the Social Security Disability process can be quite complicated and as such the assistance of an experienced attorney could be the difference of whether or not you will receive the benefits that you earned during your working years for the rest of your life.
I believe that the disability process is a team effort with the claimant, the claimant’s doctors, and the claimant’s attorney working together to secure benefits for the disabled.
Please feel free to contact me to further discuss your Social Security case and questions.