Are you ready to start the battle? Be warned, for some people it can be a long, frustrating process.
Start with a visit to your local Social Security office. Pack a lunch! This could be a looong day. You will eventually get to talk to someone and fill out the paperwork to begin the filing process. You will need to take a letter from your doctor that states your diagnosis, what tests were done to confirm the diagnosis and how this affects your ability to work. A copy of all your medical records would be extremely helpful. If you suffer from one of the lesser known rheumatic diseases, an article about your condition might also help.
That’s it for now, now you go home and wait, and wait. You could hear something in two months or not for a year, maybe longer. If you’re lucky the information you provided was enough for them to decide that you are disabled. But most people won’t be that lucky.
Chances are you will be contacted and required to have a consulting exam. A doctor appointed by SSA with exam you. Be very honest with this doctor. Tell him about the amount of pain you have and how this impacts your daily living.
Eventually you will get a letter from the SSA telling you if your application was approved or denied. It will probably be a denial letter. 80% of people who apply are denied the first time. Don’t get angry, just move forward.
You’ll need to file a “Request for Reconsideration”. At this time you have the right to review all the papers in your SSA file. Ask for it, read it through, see why they turned you down. If certain medical information was missing, track it down and submit it.
I hate to tell you this, but most “Requests for Reconsideration” are also denied. Clam down, there is nothing we can do about it, consider it part of the process and move on again.
Now you begin the appeals process. Some people suggest this is the time to bring in a lawyer. Others say if you had a lawyer in the beginning you wouldn’t be filing an appeal, you would have been approved.
If you do decide to get a lawyer find one that specializes in SSDI appeals. Payment is not a concern, typically they only get paid if you win and then it is a portion of your back pay. A good place to find an attorney is the National Organization for SS Claims Representatives, they can be found at: www.nosscr.org or by calling 1-800-431-2804.
You will have a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Sounds scary, but don’t sweat it. It is very informal and just a few people are involved; you and your lawyer, a judge and a secretary. About 50% of claimants win at their first hearing.
Uh oh, you got turned down here too? You aren’t done fighting yet! You can appeal to the Appeals Council. They’ll look over your file and everything that has happened so far and make a decision without even seeing you.
If they fail to approve you, you might want to rethink your position. Are you truly disabled? Are you and your doctor absolutely sure you cannot work in any field? If the answer is yes then you still have some options left. You can appeal to the United States District Court, requesting review of Social Security’s decision. If you need to you can appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Here is a basic overview of the steps, hopefully you won’t need to go through all of them!
Good luck! Don’t get discouraged! Remember, chances are you will be denied at least once, don’t give up. Keep the process going.