Monthly Archives: November 2014

All About Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Filing the Initial Application

First, you must complete two Documents: (1) the Disability Application and (2) the Adult Disability Report

These documents can be filed online at www.ssa.gov or you can visit your local Social Security office and make an appointment to complete these documents with a Social Security staff person.

These documents are filed with a signed Form SSA-827, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration. This Form SSA-827 is used to obtain your medical records and educational records for children.

After receiving the application documents, Social Security staff will forward your case to the Office of Disability Determination Services (DDS). In Massachusetts, DDS is also known as Mass Rehab.  DDS will assign an Adjuster to your case. You will receive a cover letter, usually within 4-6 weeks after filing the application documents, signed by the DDS Adjuster and enclosing additional forms. These DDS forms are most often the Function Report and the Work History Report. Sometimes, additional DDS forms are sent for you to complete, such as a Pain Questionnaire.

The Function Report is a comprehensive form that contains questions about how your disability affects your ability to perform your daily activities.

The Work History Report requests information about your work history for the last 15 years. Information including Job Title, Industry, Dates of Employment, Rate of Pay, Job Description, and Physical Requirements of the Job.  Even though some of the questions on the form do not seem relevant, it is important to complete this form fully and accurately because this could affect your eligibility for benefits.

After receiving the DDS forms and your medical records from your providers, the DDS Adjuster will send your case to DDS examiners who make a decision about whether you meet the standards for disability.

In Massachusetts, the entire process from filing the Initial Application forms to receiving the DDS decision is taking approximately 6 months.

How Can the Attorney Help

When you work with our office, we complete all the application documents and DDS forms with you. We know how Social Security reads these forms and what information is necessary to show you cannot work at this time. We communicate with the DDS Adjuster to make sure they have received all the pertinent medical evidence to prove your case. We keep in regular contact with you to make sure you know that your case is progressing through the process.

The Reconsideration Stage

Unfortunately, many people are denied at the Initial Application Stage but it is critical not to give up. Many people ultimately receive a favorable decision.

If you are denied after the Initial Application, you must file an appeal within 60 days of the denial. You can file the appeal online at www.ssa.gov or in person at your local Social Security office. In the appeal, you can let Social Security know if there is anything new and different about your disability since filing the Initial Application documents.

You have a right to request a copy of your file on CD to review what documents were used in making the Initial decision.  Also, the DDS examiners have listed specific reasons why your application was denied.  This can be found in the Disability Determination Explanation in your file.  This reason is more detailed than what is written in your denial letter, and it is best to review the Explanation to correct any wrong assumptions that the examiners made.

Your case will then be re-sent to DDS and assigned to a different DDS Adjuster. The DDS Adjuster will send you a cover letter with a Function Report or any other DDS forms needed to describe how your disability has been affecting your daily activities since you first filed the Initial Application. Upon receipt of these forms from you and your updated medical records, the DDS Adjuster will send your case to a new set of DDS examiners to make a new decision about whether you meet the standards for disability benefits.

How Can the Attorney Help

When you work with our office, we complete the appeal documents and DDS forms with you. We request a copy of your claims file to review the detailed explanation of why you were denied and assist you in correcting any discrepancies in your file to provide you with the best possible chance to receive an award. We communicate with the DDS Adjuster to make sure they have received all the pertinent medical evidence to prove your case. We keep in regular contact with you to make sure you know that your case is progressing through the process.

In Massachusetts, the Reconsideration stage also takes about 6 months to receive a decision. It is important to note that most people are denied at this Stage and will need to appeal their denial to the Hearing Stage to present their case at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

The Hearing Stage

If you are denied at the Reconsideration Stage, you have 60 days to file an appeal to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. You can file the appeal online at www.ssa.gov or in person at your local Social Security office.

After you file your appeal, your case will be forwarded to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in about 4 weeks. In most situations, you will have an opportunity to request that a Social Security judge review your case to decide whether the Judge can grant a favorable decision based on your medical evidence alone and without the need for a hearing. This is called an On-the-Record request. If the Judge is unable to grant a favorable On-the-Record decision, the Office will schedule a hearing. You generally receive about 75 days advance notice of the hearing date and time.

How Can the Attorney Help

When you work with our office, we complete the appeal documents with you. We thoroughly review your file once it is sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. If necessary, we obtain additional medical evidence and/or opinion evidence from your doctors. In many cases, unless we determine that the Judge will require a hearing, we assist with the On-the-Record review and present written legal argument. Once your hearing is scheduled, we make sure all the updated medical evidence is obtained and filed with the Judge. We will prepare you completely for the hearing so that you know what to expect and what information will be asked of you.

Appeals after the Hearing Stage

Please know that most applicants are approved after the Hearing Stage; however, there are instances where it is necessary to take further appeals. Our office is experienced in successful appeals at the Appeals Council and in Federal Court and can work with you during these stages as well.

Contact Boston, Massachusetts, Social Security Disability Lawyer Jennifer Leahy: 781-964-6593

Our law firm represents people at every stage of the disability process, including the administrative hearings process. Call 781-964-6593 our law firm to schedule your free initial consultation.