If you believe you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits, you may apply in person at your local Social Security office or by phone or mail. Due to inherent weaknesses in any bureaucracy handling large volumes of paper work, it is highly recommended that if at all possible you file your papers in person and save copies and receipts for everything. Initial processing of claims usually takes at least 60 to 90 days. The states, in cooperation with the Social Security Administration, assist in the handling of Social Security Disability claims by establishing an office called the Disability Determination Service (DDS) to evaluate and process the claims. Your claim will be sent to the Disability Determination Service office in your state. There, a decision will be made as to whether you are disabled under the Social Security law, based upon a review of your medical evidence, and possibly even a consultative exam which the DDS office schedules. At this level of the proceedings no hearing is held.
As a result of the lack of a hearing at the initial stage of a Social Security disability claim, as well as the difficulty of deciding claims based solely on a review of papers, it is not uncommon for errors to be made in the preliminary stages of Social Security disability claims. The denial of claims is frequently reversed on appeal. A claimant should not be surprised at the denial of his/her claim and certainly should not hesitate to appeal an adverse determination.
Once a decision is made, the claimant will receive written notice from the Social Security Administration. If approved, the claimant will receive a notice showing the amount of benefits he/she will receive and when the payments will begin. Disability benefits do not begin until the sixth full month of disability from the date the Social Security Administration decides the claimant’s disability began. Disability benefits can be paid retroactively for up to twelve months prior to the date the claim was filed, not including a five month waiting period which the law requires before a Social Security application may even be filed. On the issue of retroactivity, it should be noted that SSI cannot start before the date of the application.
In brief, take the following steps:
File an application by calling 1-800-772-1213 and completing the forms which include a 15 year work history and a medical history. The application process can take more than one phone call to complete and sometimes the Administration will have someone telephone you at a later date to complete the claim.
You must have insured status (worked 20/40 quarters).
You must have medical evidence to support your claim. Contact your physicians and obtain treatment records and/or narrative reports that document the severity of your condition and your inability to work.
Respond promptly to any requests from the disability office or the Social Security office.
When completing forms, answer the questions completely. Utilize the questionnaires that you receive to repeat your limitations and restrictions.
If you are asked to see a Social Security doctor, give copies of the reports from your physicians to the examining physician.