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To assist your understanding of the important issues related to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims, below are answers to questions frequently asked by claimants.
Q. Am I Disabled?
To qualify for and receive SSDI and/or SSI benefits, you must have physical or mental health conditions (or a combination of conditions) severe enough that you are unable to work in any paying job for at least 12 months.
To medically qualify, you essentially have to be totally disabled. In deciding your case, the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes into account your medical condition, remaining ability to work, age, education, training and work experience.
The SSDI and SSI programs do not provide benefits simply because you have been unable to get a job lately or because you are unable to return to your old job. Instead, the SSA assesses whether you are capable of performing jobs that exist in the economy for which you’re qualified despite your condition.
Q. What Can I Do If The Government Denies My Benefits?
If you retain the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour, we will request a Request for Reconsideration or a Request for Hearing before your deadline for filing the appeal. It’s understandable to become disheartened after receiving a notice denying your application for disability benefits. But it’s important to not give up. You are not alone.
Nationally, the SSA denies about 60 percent of all SSDI and SSI claims initially. But many claimants eventually receive benefits after appealing the initial denial of their claims. If you have not yet retained the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour, you should contact your local Social Security office to file a Request for Reconsideration or a Request for Hearing, depending on the stage of your denial.
It’s important to act quickly because you only have 60 days from the day you received your denial notice to file your appeal. If you miss the deadline, you have to start your application process anew, and you may also permanently lose the right to much needed benefits.
Q. Will My Application For Benefits Be Approved On Reconsideration?
The SSA approves relatively few claims for benefits at this stage of the process. It’s a hurdle that simply must be overcome. Obtaining benefits sometimes requires pursuing several layers of appeal. The SSA itself is even considering doing away with the reconsideration step so that claimants can request a hearing if their claim is initially denied.
Q. What Is A Hearing?
This is a crucial step in the appeals process. You have the best chance of winning at this stage. Nationally, more than half of all hearings result in claimants receiving benefits. You must file a request for a hearing within 60 days from the date you receive notice of the SSA’s denial of your reconsideration request.
A hearing typically works like this: an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will preside over the hearing, taking testimony under oath and considering other evidence. A hearing is not as formal as a trial in a regular courtroom, where stricter rules of evidence apply. The judge will accept medical records as evidence. In fact, medical records are an essential part of the case because your word alone on your physical and mental condition is insufficient in proving that you are disabled.
The judge or your attorney will ask you about your medical condition, medical history, abilities, education, training, work experience and the limitations caused by your disability. You may also present witnesses and you have the right to cross-examine medical or vocational experts who are sometimes called by the judge to testify. You or your attorney may make a closing argument that you are entitled to SSDI and/or SSI benefits under Social Security regulations.
Q. When Should I Contact An Attorney?
Although you can file an initial claim on your own and represent yourself throughout the claims process, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you have an SSDI or SSI claim.
The SSA applies the same legal rules in the early stages of a case as it does in the more formal hearing and appeals process. Contacting the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour at the beginning of your journey will allow you to present the best case possible to the SSA from the early stages. We can assist you at any point of the process, even if you’ve been denied and need to request a hearing before an ALJ.
Our experienced lawyers and compassionate staff can gather the needed medical records, effectively question witnesses and argue the merits of your case on your behalf. Using the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour to focus on the details of your case will allow you to focus on what’s most important – recovering your physical and mental well-being.
Q. What If I’ve Already Lost At The Hearing Stage?
If you are still within 60 days of the day you received a written notice of the ALJ’s decision to deny you benefits, it is not too late to continue pursuing your claim. You should contact the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour immediately. We may still be able to find a way to win your case in front of the Appeals Council or at federal court.
Q. What Is The Appeals Council?
The Appeals Council is the final review agency of the SSA. It may uphold the ALJ’s decision on your case or send it back to another Administrative Law Judge to hold a new hearing and enter a new decision. A claimant can appeal a decision from the Appeals Council in federal court.
Q. What Information Will My Attorney Need From Me?
At your initial meeting with the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour, please bring all of your Social Security papers, including any denial notices and appeals forms if you have already started your claim. You should also provide any medical records related to your disability if you have them in your possession.
It’s helpful if you’re able to provide the following information:
- The names and addresses of all the doctors you have seen for your disabling impairment and the approximate dates you saw the doctors
- The names and addresses of the hospitals where you have been treated and the dates of your treatments
- The names and addresses of your employers during the last 15 years, as well as dates of employment for each employer and a brief description of your job duties
- The name of each medication you are presently taking, the dosage and the name of the prescribing doctor
The Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour serves clients with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims throughout Southern California. Contact us today at (877) 978-3149 or through our online form to schedule a free initial consultation and assessment of your claim. Remember: you won’t owe us anything unless we obtain a successful outcome for your case!