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SSDI approval process: slow and difficult

The odds and waits are long, but Social Security Disability Insurance applicants usually have little choice but to take their chances with the federal program. The odds of approval are less than 50-50, according to a recent National Public Radio report. (Charlotte's NPR station is WFAE.)

And the wait for a hearing before an administrative law judge to determine if you qualify for SSDI: nearly 600 days, according to NOSSCR, an organization of attorneys and others who advocate for people with disabilities.

NPR spoke to a nurse who was in her mid-20s in charge of a large intensive care unit in Kansas City. By age 35, she had been forced by systemic lupus -- an immune system disorder that left her fatigued and in pain -- to leave her career.

She is now 41 years old and often bed-ridden. She applied for SSDI benefits but was turned down.

When she learned that her application and been rejected, she "just started bawling," she said. "I felt like, if they looked at my records or read these notes, surely they would understand my situation."

"It is not easy to get disability benefits," said a NOSSCR spokesperson. "It's a very complicated and difficult process."

The Social Security Administration not long ago introduced changes that might make it even more difficult to gain approval. The government decided to place less emphasis on the evaluation of patients by their long-time doctors.

For people with immune system disorders such as lupus, multiple sclerosis or with mental illness -- conditions that cannot be determined by visual examination -- the application process might result in more denials of benefits which would in turn result in more appeals.

Put all of these factors together and it becomes more important than ever to have on your side an attorney experienced in SSDI appeals.

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