Surviving the Social Security Disability claims process
By attorney Kristen Brauchle, Special to THELAW.TV
When you're unable to work and waiting for a Social Security Disability Insurance claim to be approved, it can seem that there is no relief in sight. While the process can be long and complicated, there are resources to help you along the way.
The typical timeline for an initial SSDI claim to be processed is three to four months. If the claim is denied, you'll be faced with an even longer appeals process. Although this time can be tough financially and emotionally, the first step to surviving the Social Security Disability claims process is knowing what to expect. The second step is learning what resources can help you get through it.
Appealing a SSDI denial
Approximately 70 percent of SSDI claims are denied during the initial application process. If you've been denied for disability benefits, a Social Security disability attorney can advise you and give you the best chance at being approved on appeals.
When you receive your denial letter, you have 60 days to file an appeal. The first level of appeal is requesting the Social Security Administration reconsider your case. The claim will be reviewed by someone who was not involved in your initial claim. In the event that this review again results in a denial, you can next request a hearing by an administrative law judge.
If the desired result is still not achieved, you can request that the SSA's Appeals Council review your case. However, this request can be denied if the council finds your denials to be accurate. The final appeal avenue, if all others are denied, is filing a lawsuit in federal court to have your claim re-examined.
The appeals process can be long and stressful, lasting months or even years. It's disheartening for those who need benefits to make ends meet, but there are resources to help you while you're waiting.
Surviving the appeals process
Among the chief concerns for a person who is disabled is the need for medication to treat their medical conditions. If you do not currently have health insurance to cover the cost of treatment and medication, there are resources you can look into. It is vital that you continue to see your doctor, as your SSDI claim will depend on having medical records of your disability and treatment.
In your area, there are social services available for adults. Consult an adult services caseworker, who can point you in the direction of charitable organizations near you that offer assistance with prescriptions. People with disabilities can also apply for Medicaid to help with medical cost.
Aside from SSDI and Medicaid, there are a host of other government benefits you may be eligible for. Food stamps and Section 8 housing are chief among these and can help reduce your day-to-day cost of living tremendously. There is usually a wait for subsidized housing, so it's important to file for these services as soon as possible.
In addition to keeping a roof over your head and food on the table, keeping the heat on is a necessity. During the extreme temperatures of winter and summer, you need utilities to be functional. The Low Income Energy Assistance Program is a state- and federally-funded program that helps both homeowners and renters cover the costs of heating and/or cooling bills. The services available depend on the region you live in, so check with local social services to find out more.
Don't be afraid to seek and accept help from any resources you can find, whether it be family and friends, local churches and charitable organizations, and government agencies. There's a light at the end of the tunnel; don't stop trying, and never give up hope.
The author, Kristen Brauchle, focuses her Houston, Texas, practice on Social Security Disability denials. She has more than a decade of experience helping her clients solve their legal problems. She is a certified mediator and a litigator. She is active in both the State Bar of Texas and in the Houston Bar Association and is a frequent speaker.
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