Social Security Disability: Do I Qualify?
To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you have to meet several conditions:
- You worked and paid into the Social Security system.
- You’ve experienced a medical problem that prevents you from working.
- Your health conditions also stop you from switching to another kind of work.
- Your health problems are expected to last at least a year.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has thousands of rules governing disability benefits. Your application will ask for a lot of information about you:
- Your work history
- Your medical conditions
- Your medical records
What Happens If Your Case Is Denied?
Most people get turned down the first time they apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. It can be devastating if it happens to you. But you should know: Your case isn’t over. Olinksy Law Group can take your appeal all the way to Federal Court. In fact, we are recognized leaders in SSD appeals.
Social Security Disability has four levels of appeal in most states:
- Reconsideration by SSA reviewers
- Administrative Law Judge hearing
- An SSA Appeals Council review
- Federal Court
When you receive a denial of your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits, the first level of appeal is the reconsideration stage.
Someone at the SSA not involved with your original decision reviews your file. Most people still get denied at this level. Some states don’t have the reconsideration step.
Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge
Your next level of appeal after a reconsideration is talking to an Administrative Law Judge.
This happens at an Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). This is the only point in the process where you can meet a decision maker on your case face to face.
The hearings are fairly informal. The only people likely to be there are you, your attorney, the judge and a clerk. In some cases, the ALJ has a medical or vocational expert present or on the phone to testify at the hearing.
There is no opposing attorney representing the SSA. There’s no jury, or spectators.
During the hearing, you’ll testify about your medical condition and how your impairments prevent you from working full time. Your attorney will take testimony and present legal arguments on why you qualify.
Statistics show your chances of winning benefits are better when you have an attorney.
If your claim goes to the Appeals Council, you’ve reached the final level of appeal that’s still handled by the Social Security Administration itself.
An Appeals Council review isn’t really designed to help you. It’s designed to help the SSA manage its program. Instead of focusing on the facts of your claim, the Appeals Council is checking how the Administrative Law Judges are applying the regulations that cover disability benefits.
Still, you may have to go to the Appeals Council level to keep your claim alive. And you must get an Appeals Council review before you can bring your case to Federal Court.
The Federal Level
When the Appeals Council denies your claim, your next step is the United States District Court. This is an area where Olinsky Law Group is highly experienced.
Technically, what you’re doing at this level is suing the Commissioner of Social Security.
A Federal Court judge will decide your case without a trial. Your lawyer will submit documents for the judge to review. And the U.S. Attorney’s Office will submit briefs for the Social Security Commissioner.
If the federal judge denies your case, you can still appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
A Social Security Disability case makes it all the way to the Supreme Court about once every three or four years.