The Social Security Administration has made it increasingly difficult to be found disabled and awarded SSD/SSI.
The SSD/SSI application process has four stages. At the initial application stage, Social Security will attempt to obtain your medical records and then have one of their doctors review the evidence and make a decision. If your claim is denied, you can ask that your case be reviewed meaning that Social Security will again try to obtain your records and make a decision. If your claim is denied a second time, you have a right to a hearing before an administrative law judge. At this stage, you have a hearing in which you can submit medical records and other evidence, testify and make legal arguments as to why you should be found disabled and awarded SSD/SSI. If your case is denied at this stage, you can appeal to the appellate board called the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will review the Judge's decision and has the authority to affirm or reverse the decision or send it back to the administrative law judge for another hearing. If you are dissatisfied with the Appeals Council decision, you have a right to file an action against the Social Security Administration in federal court.
In the past few years, the Social Security Administration has made it increasingly difficult to be found disabled and awarded SSD/SSI. Social Security has always made it difficult to be found disabled at the first two stages of the application process, i.e., the initial and reconsideration stage but now increasingly so especially if you are under 55 years of age. At the hearing stage, the Judge's disability award rate for SSD/SSI is about 15% lower than it was five years ago. Finally, the Appeals Council is now much less active and in most cases just affirms the Judge's denial of disability. In the past, the Appeals Council was fairly active and if the judge committed legal error they would often send the case back to the Judge to correct the errors he had made.
Because it is now more difficult to be found disabled and awarded SSD/SSI, it is more important to have an attorney who will file the initial application for you. Our office likes to be involved at that point so we can advise the client regarding what types of doctors he should see and what testing needs to be done so we can properly document his health problems and have the evidence needed to prove disability even before the case is filed. For example, if a client has shooting pains down his leg he should probably have an EMG. Also it is important to have an attorney because he can make sure that your medical records are obtained, reviewed and submitted to Social Security. Social Security will base their decision in large part on the medical reports so if they are not submitted, you will have little chance of being found disabled. Also, Social Security will require that you complete numerous lengthy forms and you need to make sure they are filled out properly. The forms can be overwhelming to someone who does not do them regularly and if they are not done or not done properly Social Security may deny the claim for noncooperation. Therefore, by having an attorney, you will have a much better chance of being found disabled and awarded SSD/SSI early in the process so you do not have to go to a hearing, which can take two years or longer.
If you do have to go to a hearing, our office will work hard to give you the best chance of being found disabled and awarded SSD/SSI. This includes the following: 1) doing a detailed review of your Social Security file which has your medical records and related forms, 2) update and submit your medical records, 3) work to obtain statements from your doctors regarding your work related limitations, 4) if necessary arrange for you to undergo an independent medical exam so we can better document your health problems, 5) prepare you for the hearing by going over all the questions that the Judge and I will ask so that you are ready for the hearing, 6) appear at the hearing with you, 7) submit either a written legal argument or an oral argument that goes over the important facts in the case, the relevant law and why the facts show that the legal standard for disability is met and that you should be awarded SSD/SSI.