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What are the steps in the Social Security Disability process?

When you are just starting the process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), it can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to know how to start - as well as anticipate how long the approval process will take.

Knowledge of the steps involved with applying for SSDI will help you to understand the legal process and make more educated decisions regarding your options. 

  1. The first step is to file an initial application for disability benefits. This can be done by mail, phone or online. The application will ask about your impairment, treatment sources and other information related to the alleged disability.
  2. Next, representatives in Social Security Administration (SSA) field office will review your application for non-medical eligibility requirements, such as age, employment and income limits.
  3. Then, if approved to do so, your application will go to Disability Determination Services (DDS). DDS is a state agency funded by the federal government that makes initial determinations regarding disability or blindness. An examiner will review your medical information to determine if you meet the criteria listed in the SSA's list of impairments.
  4. You will receive an approval or denial from the SSA field office. If approved, the SSA will compute the disability amount and begin payments. If denied, you have the option to appeal for reconsideration by the DDS.
  5. If you appeal within 60 days of your denial notice, the DDS will take a second look at your application. You may submit additional evidence at this time to further support your disability claim.
  6. If your application is denied again, which unfortunately is common, you have the right to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will review all evidence and hear witness testimonies to make a determination. You also can have legal representation to present your argument to the judge.
  7. After that point, if you still receive a denial, you can ask for review of your case by an appeals council, and after that federal court.

At any phase in the disability application process, particularly as you begin an initial appeal, your can will benefit greatly from advice and advocacy from an experienced lawyer.

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