Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is often most people’s first experience with a complicated federal bureaucracy. It is often a rude awakening to most people given the paperwork nightmare and the long delays that some government programs can entail. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the SSD program, is one of the largest federal agencies and it can be like running a marathon to get from start to finish in the SSD system with all the different levels of appeals and review before you finally make it to the finish line. As a simple example of how mind-bogglingly complicated the SSA bureaucracy can be, the SSA actually runs one of the largest court systems in the world just within the agency itself to consider SSD administrative appeals.
Given this, and particularly for those who may not have any experience with this type of proceeding, the process of applying for and ultimately securing SSD benefits can be very intimidating. However, at Kalfus & Nachman, we are experienced SSD attorneys who have seen just about anything in connection with the SSD application process. The SSA routinely makes mistakes in reviewing applications at every level of SSD proceedings by not even following their own guidelines and regulations or simply ignoring the most important portions of an applicant’s medical records. Therefore, there often always is fertile ground for an experienced attorney to spot the errors in the handling of his or her client’s SSD application throughout the various levels of the SSD process and to raise those issues at the various levels or appeal.
We are often called in by our clients at all different stages of SSD claims, from first becoming involved when the claim is made in the very beginning to when the client has made it all the way to an administrative appeal. Regardless of where a client is at in the process, we use our experience to help our clients get across the finish line and achieve what they set out to do: obtain the award of SSD benefits to which they are entitled by virtue of a disability that prevents the client from working.
The SSD Claim Process
The first step in the SSD process is the completion and submission of the initial application. Once this has been submitted, it will be reviewed by SSA staff, who are supposed to request the applicant's medical records and sometimes will send those to outside medical reviewers to provide opinions as to what they believe your ability to perform certain work-related tasks is. If your application is denied at the first level, then you are permitted to request reconsideration of the initial denial of your application. Reconsideration involves another review of your application, any supporting medical records, and any outside reviewer opinions by a different SSA employee at the same office. It is common that claims will be denied at the initial and reconsideration levels; some estimates put it as high as ¾ of all applications that are denied upon initial review. If your claim is denied again at the reconsideration level, then you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will review all of your records and conduct a live or videoconference hearing at which you are permitted to testify and to offer witnesses and testimony. The ALJ then makes a finding as to whether you meet the criteria to receive SSD benefits or not in his or her opinion. The fourth and last stop within the agency is the Appeals Council. You can appeal an adverse decision by the ALJ to the Appeals Council, which looks at your file solely to determine if the ALJ made an error or not. If the Appeals Council affirms the ALJ’s decision, then you can file a lawsuit in federal court requesting that a federal judge review the SSD’s handling of your application and whether you qualify for benefits or not.
Not only are there all these steps to the actual process, but there are strict deadlines associated with each, usually sixty days for filing a notice that you would like to proceed to the next step in the process. If you miss a deadline for appealing or file a notice that you want to move on to the next level of review even a day late, then you may have to go back to start and begin with a whole new application.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney to Help You Navigate this Maze
The SSD application process involves a multitude of steps with different deadlines for moving on to the next step of review. An experienced attorney knows the process inside and out because that is all he or she does-succeed in helping claimants successfully master the SSD application maze. As a result, it does not surprise many people to know that the success rate for those represented by an attorney at the various levels of appeal within the Social Security disability process are much higher than for those applicants who are not represented by attorneys. Experienced attorneys know the process, know and keep track of the timelines for obtaining the next level of review along each step of the way and know what arguments will resonate at each level of the process. Therefore, it often makes sense to retain an attorney to assist you in applying for and handling your SSD claim given the complexities of the SSA system for processing SSD claims.
Talk to The Experienced Social Security Disability Attorneys at Kalfus & Nachman
The experienced SSD attorneys at Kalfus & Nachman have been successfully representing SSD claimants for decades and, over that time, we have amassed considerable expertise at what is needed to succeed at each level of the SSD process. We keep our clients from having to jump through the bureaucratic hoops associated with the SSD process by doing so for them. If you live in the Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach or Roanoke, Virginia, areas and need assistance determining if you qualify for the SSD benefits, what your expected monthly benefit would be if you qualify for benefits, filing your SSD application, or filing an appeal, please contact Kalfus & Nachman PC by phone at (855) 880-8163 or through the form on this page to schedule a free consultation.