If you are disabled, you may find yourself contemplating whether or not you should apply for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both. When this is the case, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin. If you feel this way, rest assured that these feelings are entirely normal. After all, the law can be confusing and complex.
It’s true that navigating the legal system pertaining to Social Security benefits can be complicated – but the good news is that at London Disability, it’s our specialty. We have years of experience successfully representing countless clients just like you in Baltimore – clients who deserve disability benefits, and need help working through the process. While it is always important to obtain an advocate when you apply for benefits, we also know that it can be reassuring to understand how the process works generally prior to meeting with your advocate for the first time.
The Application Process
As a general rule, a disabled individual who wishes to seek Social Security Disability Insurance must be “insured” – meaning that he or she worked for a necessary length of time and paid Social Security taxes during that time. Supplemental Security Income, by contrast, is based on financial need. Regardless of which disability benefits you are seeking, however, the process usually includes the following steps:
· Gather your medical records and other important information: When you’re making a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, you have to establish that you have a disability that prevents you from working, and therefore entitles you to the benefits. The best way to do that is to provide medical records proving that disability. Ask any doctors from whom you’ve received treatment for copies of your medical records. Records that document your condition, its effects on you, and the treatment you have received will all be extremely helpful proof. Aside from medical records, other helpful information to gather might include:
o Your social security number;
o Proof of your age;
o Information about any medication you regularly take;
o Any relevant laboratory or test results;
o A description of your work history;
o A copy of your most recent tax return information;
o Any other information that might establish your disability and entitlement to benefits.
You may not be able to use all of the information you gather, but it always better to gather more rather than less. Your advocate can help you to sift through it to determine what is most helpful and relevant.
· Complete an application: After you have gathered all of your information, the next essential step toward obtaining benefits is to complete an application. After the application is prepared, it is sent to Maryland Disability Determination Services. In Maryland, Maryland Disability Determination Services is the agency tasked with making disability decisions on behalf of the Social Security Administration for those who live in the state. Typically, it can take around three or four months for a claims examiner to make a decision regarding your application, and then a notice will be sent informing you as to whether your application is approved or denied.
· Reapply if your first application is denied: It is important to realize that many people – the majority of people in fact – who submit an application for disability benefits are denied the first time around. The good news is that being denied once doesn’t mean that you’ll never receive benefits. It simply means that you will need to reapply, which is also often referred to as filing a “request for reconsideration”. After you have done so, it can take another month or two to receive a response.
· Request a hearing before an administrative law judge: In some cases, both the initial application and the request for reconsideration will be denied. In these circumstances, it may be necessary to file an appeal, and eventually have a hearing in front of an administrative law judge assigned to your case. For most claimants, the hearing is their best opportunity to present their case in person before a judge who will make the decision on the claim. It is an opportunity to present medical records and to provide testimony face to face regarding your disability and its impact on your life.
· File an appeal, if necessary: If your claim for disability benefits is still denied following the hearing, you can request that the decision of the judge be reviewed by the Social Security Disability Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will review the facts of your case and the evidence presented, and seek to ensure that the judge assigned to your case considered all of the evidence presented, and made his or her decision in accordance with the law. At that point, they will either affirm the decision, or reverse the decision and send it back to the judge for reconsideration.
· Request a review in federal court: This is a last-stage option that can be pursued if you have still not received a favorable decision on your claim after requesting review by the Appeals Council. Fortunately, most claimants do not have to take their cases this far, and this option is rarely pursued.
At London Disability, We’re Here for You
If you are disabled and believe that you may be entitled to SSDI or SSI benefits, you shouldn’t wait any longer to begin seeking the compensation you rightfully deserve. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to turn, you should turn to us. At London Disability, we’re here for you, and we would be honored to have the opportunity to help you through this process from beginning to end. We have an extensive knowledge of Social Security Disability law, and the experience necessary to put that knowledge into practice successfully for countless clients across the Baltimore area. We would love to have the opportunity to help you too. Call us today at (877)978-3136 or visit us online at www.londondisability.com at any time. We look forward to speaking with you soon.