Steps in the Disability Process
Whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income Benefits (SSI) the process is the same. You must file your initial application online at www.ssa.gov or in person or by telephone. You will need a list of your doctors and other providers and their names and addresses available at the time of application. Keep a copy via print or screen shot to document your filing. Once the application is filed, Social Security usually responds within 2 months, however, it can take up to 6 months. Inquire every 2 months as to the status of your application. Once that application is denied, which is typical, a Request for Reconsideration must be filed either online, in person or by telephone. Again, document your application. Your file is sent to the Disability Determination Services office for further review. This process can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months, possibly longer. Inquire about the status of your application every 2 months. If you are denied at this level, the next step is the Request for Hearing. At this level a hearing will be set but it make take another 8 to 12 months to obtain a hearing date. The whole process, application, reconsideration and hearing, can take approximately 18 months from start to finish. This is not a fast process and you must continue to supply Social Security with copies of your medical records.
Do I need an Attorney?
You definitely need an attorney at the hearing level. Your attorney will help you update your medical records, obtain treating source statements from your doctors, write a hearing statement as to why you meet the disability requirements, elicit your testimony in the hearing, and help you with all of the technical issues in the process. Social Security Administrative Judges are very good at eliciting testimony from you which may or may not be accurate. Do not take that chance.
How will I pay my Attorney?
Any attorney practicing before the Social Security Administration is paid from the back benefits of the client. That fee arrangement is set by the Social Security Administration. These cases are contingent fee cases and the fee is 25% of the client's back benefits. If the case is won and is a favorable decision, the client will receive monthly benefits and also back benefits from the time the judge found the client disabled until the back benefits are paid. The attorney is paid from the back benefit amount. If, for example, the back benefits are $10,000.00, the Social Security Administration will withhold 25% ($2500.00) to pay the attorney directly. There is no direct fee that the client must pay. Win or lose the client is responsible for the cost of the medical records obtained. However, due to Colorado legislation, many times that cost is minimal.