The Process

Steps to Success

The first step in winning your disability benefits claim is to make a call to our office. Your financial stability is at stake, and you have a right to the appropriate benefits. Through each stage of your case, we strive to keep you informed of our progress and prepared for what is to come.

What to expect, and when to expect it. We are here to guide you and to fight at your side through a rigorous and complex system. A great percentage of initial applications are denied, and many people do not receive benefits because they do not appeal. Our firm has the experience and expertise to navigate all stages of appeal from the hearing all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Our Advantage

We have the expertise to navigate every stage of appeal on your behalf, whether it is within the Social Security Administration or in federal court.

Phone Interview

Once you’ve made your first call to Olinsky Law Group, we’ll determine if you have a viable case.  One of our experienced staff will conduct a short, twenty minute interview with you to take notes for the attorney who will be working with you on your case.

Assigned Attorney

If your case is accepted, we’ll assign you a paralegal and an attorney. The paralegal will be your main contact with our office, and they’ll work with you and your case throughout the entire process. They’re happy to assist you with any questions throughout the process.

Build Your Case

Your attorney at Olinsky Law Group will consult with you and explain the next step in appealing your benefits claim. We will build a thorough and strong case to be heard by the Social Security Administration, and we will take that case to federal court if needed.

1. The Administration Level

Once you apply for SSD or SSI benefits, the Social Security Administration will review your application to see if you meet some of the basic requirements for disability benefits. They will review your past work activities, and they will also determine if you have worked long enough to qualify to receive Social Security disability benefits. If it is decided that you have met their requirements, your application will be sent to the Disability Determination Services Office in the state where you live. The state agency makes a decision on your initial application by looking at the medical evidence from your doctors, hospitals, clinics, and/or institutions where you have been treated. Your doctors will be asked about your medical condition, when it began, how it limits your activities, what medical tests show about your medical condition, and the type of treatment you are receiving for your medical condition. Your doctors will also be asked about your ability to perform work-related activities but will not be asked to decide if you are disabled. The state agency will then send you a letter stating whether your application has been approved or denied.
The Reconsideration level involves a review of your file at the same office that denied your initial application and is conducted by someone who was not involved with any aspect of your initial decision. The Reconsideration step is not required in certain states. Unfortunately, 91% of the time the Reconsideration Decision is also a denial.
Filing an appeal after an initial or reconsideration level denial moves the case to the Office of Adjudication and Review, ODAR. At ODAR the case is assigned to the docket of an Administrative Law Judge who works for Social Security. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) makes an independent decision upon the claim. This is the only level where the claimant and the decision maker get to see each other. The hearings are fairly informal. The only people likely to be there are the judge, a clerk recording the hearing, the claimant, and the claimant’s attorney. In some cases, the ALJ has a medical or vocational expert present or on the phone to testify at the hearing. There is no jury nor are there any spectators at the hearing. There is no opposing attorney representing SSA. During the hearing, the claimant will testify about their medical condition and how the impairments prevents them from working full time. The claimant’s representative will take testimony, go over the claimants medical condition and present legal arguments for why the claimant should be found to meet the standards for Social Security Disability. Statistically, less than half of the claimants who have a Social Security disability hearing win. Statistics also show that claimants represented by an attorney are much more likely to win than a claimant who is unrepresented.
The Appeals Council is the last level of review within the Social Security Administration. It exists to maintain program integrity and to insure the ALJs follow the regulations. The Appeals Counsel is not an effective level of review for a claimants claim. Its review is designed to make sure the ALJ’s are applying the regulations, not whether the ALJ made a proper decision on facts of the claim. An appeal to the Appeals Council is necessary if a claimant wants to continue to seek a finding of disability. It is a required step for all cases which are brought to Federal Court.

2. The Federal Level

If a claim is denied at the Appeals Council, it is ripe for review for possible appeal to the United States District Court A claimant appealing to the United States District Court actually sues the Commissioner of Social Security. A Federal Court case is decided by the court without a trial after reviewing the pleadings, including Briefs submitted on behalf of the claimant and a brief submitted by the US Attorney’s office representing the Commissioner. A Social Security disability claim which is denied by the federal district court is then appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly all the way to the Supreme Court. About once every three or four years, the United States Supreme Court hears an appeal of a Social Security disability case.