Know the Process and Know You Don’t Need to Handle Social Security Claims Alone
The first thing you have to do is file an application. Social Security has joined the digital age, and applications are usually filed over the internet. The date of your application is important as DIB benefits can only be paid for 12 months prior to the date of your application. Even if you became disabled several years ago, you can only receive monies for the past year. This is also important as you are not eligible for Medicare until you have been able to receive DIB benefits for 24 months. You also need to know that there is a 5 full month waiting period for DIB. For example, if you applied in January 2015 and are found disabled as of January 1, 2014, your benefits will begin June 2014, and you will be eligible for Medicare June 2016. If you are found disabled January 2, 2014, your benefits will begin July 2014, and you will be eligible for Medicare July 2016. If you are found disabled January 2008 and you apply in January 2015, your benefits will not begin until January 2014, and you will be eligible for Medicare in January 2016.
SSI benefits can only be paid as of the month following the date of your application. So, if you believe that you are disabled and unable to work, you need to file for SSI as soon as possible.
You can either go online yourself or you can contact a representative to help you file the application. Once you apply, the application is sent to your state Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) for collection of medical evidence and a decision as to whether or not you are disabled. If you are found disabled, you will receive a Notice of Award and benefits will begin. If not, in most states you file a Request for Reconsideration. Once again, your file is sent to BDD for a second evaluation. If you are denied again, or if your state does not include the reconsideration stage, you have to Request a Hearing. These two steps can take up to a year to complete.
When you Request a Hearing, your file is transferred to your local Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). After approximately fifteen months, your case will be set for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will review your file and allow you to appear and testify at a hearing. If the ALJ finds you are disabled, you will be eligible for benefits. If not, you can either file a Request for Review with the Appeals Council or file a new application. The Appeals Council can either grant benefits, remand the case for another hearing before an ALJ (usually the same ALJ), or deny your claim. If the Appeals Council denies your claim, you have to file a complaint in the appropriate United States District Court against the Social Security Administration.
What if Your SSD or SSI Claim is Denied?
Social Security is a confusing and complicated process, the most important thing for you to remember is that you should not go through this process alone. You need to find an attorney who is familiar with the disability process and can help you navigate the system.
Be wary if you contact an attorney who states that they want a retainer. If you are granted benefits at the hearing level or earlier, attorney fees have been set as 25% of your past due benefits or $6000, whichever is less. This means that if you receive no past due benefits, there should be no fee. If the past due benefits are $10,000, the attorney fees will be $2500. If the past due benefits are $60,000, the attorney fees will be $6000.
You also need to ask any attorney you contact regarding the number of continuing legal education classes they attend each year to update themselves regarding Social Security. You also should ask how many Social Security hearings the attorney attends each month. Finally, you want to make sure that the attorney you contact is a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR). NOSSCR is the national organization of Social Security attorneys. We are pleased to state that Scott Smith currently serves on the Board of Directors.
The answers to these questions will tell you whether or not you have contacted a knowledgeable attorney who can help you navigate the system and advocate on your behalf.
Best of luck with your claim. Please call us if you would like our help.
Our goal is your success.