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Social Security Disability Services

Disability is something that most people don’t like to think about. However, the percentage of people who become disabled prior to reaching retirement age is higher than we realize.

While some programs give money to people with partial Disability or short-term Disability, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are only available for people who meet a very strict set of Federal rules. To be eligible to receive Social Security Disability, a person must be unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in death. “Unable to work” means being unable to perform either a work the person once did or any other type of work. To determine that, Social Security will evaluate the person’s age, education and work history in addition to their medical condition.

Understanding Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income

Social Security Disability benefits are paid through two different programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The requirements for each program are the same, except that under the SSDI program the person must have worked a certain number of years and paid taxes to be eligible, whereas under the SSI program the person must show low income and few resources.

A person should apply for Social Security Disability as soon as he/she becomes unable to work. The application can be made online at www.ssa.gov, or by calling the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213. The applicant will need to have handy his/her social security number; date of birth; names, addresses, and phone numbers of all doctors and hospitals where treated; names and dosages of medications; and a summary of all the places worked and types of work done in the last 15 years. The Social Security office will review your application to make sure you meet certain basic requirements, then forward it to a Disability Determination Services office which will complete the Disability decision by obtaining the applicant’s medical records and evaluating the applicant’s ability to do work-related activities. If necessary, the state agency will send the applicant for a medical evaluation which is paid for by Social Security. After reviewing and taking into consideration several factors, the state agency will issue a decision approving or denying the application for benefits.

The decision is mailed to the applicant. If the applicant disagrees with it, he/she may appeal within 60 days of the decision date. That is called a reconsideration, and the applicant has another opportunity to provide additional records in an attempt to change the state agency’s decision. Someone else at the state agency will review the application and consider any new evidence provided.

If the reconsideration also results in a denial of the application for benefits, the applicant has another chance to appeal. This time, the appeal consists of a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and the applicant will have the opportunity to appear before a judge and provide his/her testimony as to why he/she can no longer work. Unfortunately, the wait is currently very long and it could be a year or more before the applicant actually appears before a judge.

An applicant for Social Security Disability benefits has the right to be represented by an attorney. Proving a Disability is not always easy, and the fact that someone considers him/herself to be disabled does not necessarily mean that he/she meets the Social Security Disability requirements. Being represented by an attorney can make all the difference. If you have specific questions about your case or general questions about the process, feel free to contact us. It will be our pleasure to help.

About Fernanda Hottle
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Meet Fernanda Hottle, Leading Immigration and Social Security Lawyer in Atlanta, GA.

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