1) If I become disabled when should I file for Social Security Disability benefits?
You should file immediately. Do NOT WAIT! The Social Security process is long and the quicker you file, the faster you will get the ball rolling and the faster you may possibly get approved for benefits. You can call or visit your local Social Security office or visit www.gov.ssa
2) What do I need to file the application?
There are several things needed depending on the kind of claim you file. There are 2 types of disability. One is DIB, Disability Insurance Benefits, which is what you pay into when working. The other is SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, which is the welfare portion for those who have not worked enough. If you have worked 5 of the last 10 years and paid taxes, you will likely qualify for a DIB claim. This can be filed online. If you have not worked 5 out of the last 10 years, then you need to contact your local office to file for a SSI claim. A SSI claim can only be filed either in person or on the phone. I usually recommend for someone to file in person when possible because you will have to supply them with information such as income of the household, how you pay your bills, banking/savings account information, and sign appropriate forms. If you do this via phone, many times the mailed in information gets lost and the claims never get processed. Even with a DIB claim online, you must complete each question until you have reached the confirmation page. If you exit out of the application or need to take a break, you can get a reentry number. However, know that until ALL the information is input, your claim has NOT been processed. You will also need a list of all of your medications and treating sources when filing your application.
3) What do I need from my doctor before filing for Social Security benefits?
We always suggest you have a treating physician or be receiving treatment from a clinic. You should discuss with your doctor or nurse practitioner that you have filed for disability. The SSA office will request records from your doctors. If you have an attorney, they will request records and possibly request a statement or form from your physician about your abilities to work. So it is also important to discuss the fact you are filing for disability with your doctor/nurse/therapist, etc.
4) Do I need an attorney's office to assist me in my claim?
You do not have to have an attorney or non-attorney representative to assist you, but generally having an attorney is in your best interest. When someone has a mental impairment, serious physical problems, lack of family and social support, the Social Security process can be very overwhelming, time consuming, draining on your mental focus, and confusing. Having a representative allows you to focus on your health while the attorney focuses on getting you your benefits.
SSA has some interesting data on their site which shows that over half the people filing for Disability get denied initially. Some states, like Florida and Mississippi, have a reconsideration stage and that data shows over 80% of those claims are denied. Most people wait until they have a hearing before reaching out to get representation, which is unfortunate because the same data shows that at the hearing level over 80% of claims are allowed. Alabama has been a protocol state in the past but will also go back to the reconsideration stage in October of this year.
5) How long is the Social Security Disability process if I am denied?
Generally, right now in the surrounding states of Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama you are looking at 12-18 months to get a hearing date before an Administrative Law Judge. During that time, our office works with SSA providing medical documentation, forms, and the necessary information to try and get that hearing scheduled as soon as possible. We work to get claims approved without having to proceed with a hearing.
There is a lot that goes into filing a claim. These are just some basics. If you have filed for Social Security disability benefits, you may have additional questions regarding filing your claim. Please call one of the experienced disability representatives at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free consultation. Gardberg & Kemmerly specialize in helping the injured and disabled.