In the past, applying for disability benefits meant contacting the Social Security Administration (SSA) and requesting an application. Today, there are a number of ways to apply: online, by telephone or by visiting the local SSA office. The fact that the majority of initial applications are denied, however, makes it crucial to have proper legal representation, regardless of how the application is submitted. Located in Fresno, Peña & Bromberg, PLC, is the premier disability benefits law firm serving clients throughout Central Valley, California and across the United States. Our dedicated legal team routinely helps clients navigate the application process and works to ensure that they obtain these vital benefits
The SSD/SSI Application Process
The first step in the disability benefits application process involves filing the application with the SSA and the Administration’s review of the initial initial claim, a lengthy and complicated process.
In order to be eligible, you must be unable to perform any substantial gainful activity (SGA). This means if you are working at the time the application is submitted, your claim may be denied. You will also be required to answer a series of questions relative to your disability and work history. This includes completing a detailed questionnaire about your activities of daily living.
Additionally, specific personal information must be provided at the time the initial claim is submitted, including:
- Social Security Number
- Birth certificate
- Contact information of doctors
- Names and dosages of prescription medications
- Complete history of medical records
- Copy of most recent W-2
- Detailed work history
Moreover, medical records from your treating physician that support your claim must be provided to the Social Security examiner. In some cases, it may also be necessary to undergo a consultative exam. In short, it is necessary to show that you have a physical or mental condition that will last twelve months or longer or result in death.
The Social Security office will then send your file to an examiner to reviewed. Because the approval or denial will be based on the information provided in the application, it is crucial that there are no errors and the required information is provided.
How Social Security Disability Benefits Claims are Evaluated
The first thing the examiner will look to is whether or not you have earned sufficient work credits to qualify for disability benefits. Work credits are based on your total annual wages or self-employment income, up to four credits per year. The number of work credits that are required to be eligible depend on your age at the time you became disabled.
Generally, you must acquire 40 credits, half of which must be earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled; younger workers, however, may qualify with fewer credits. If you meet these conditions, the application will be sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) department for a full review.
The Disability Determination Services Process
The Disability Determination Services office will make the ultimate decision on whether to approve or deny the claim. This starts by reviewing all the information and medical records that were included in the application. Although the SSA maintains the Blue Book of qualifying medical conditions, the DDS will approve or deny your claim regardless of whether your specific impairment is included in this listing. The DDS will also consider whether or not you are capable of performing the type of work you were doing before you became disabled, or any other type of work at all.
In the event that the DDS examiner finds that the medical information you have provided is insufficient to prove you have a qualifying impairment, it may be necessary to attend a consultative exam by an independent medical professional selected by the SSA. Depending on the circumstances, more than one consult may be required, and these findings will become a key factor in whether or not the claim is approved. Once the DDS approves or denies the claim, a letter will be sent to you notifying you of the decision. If the claim is approved, you will be informed of the monthly benefit amount, and the date those benefits begin. In some cases, the benefits may be retroactive to the date that you became disabled, which makes it critical to initiate a claim with the SSA as soon as possible.
If the claim is denied, you will be provided with an explanation, insufficient work credits, for example or that you are capable of performing substantial gainful activity. The letter will also inform you of your right to appeal the decision and how to initiate the process. In the end, DDS only approves about 37 percent of the initial disability benefits applications received.
Fresno Disability Benefits Attorneys
Because nearly two-thirds of initial disability benefits applications are denied, it helps to have an experienced attorney to rely on. At Peña & Bromberg, PLC, we have the knowledge and skill that are necessary for submitting applications that will result in successful outcomes.
We understand that being disabled can be overwhelming, which makes navigating the SSA bureaucracy even more challenging. Our legal team will guide you through every phase of the application process, help you collect all the necessary information, and work closely with your medical team to ensure that all records are complete and accurate.
In the event that your application for disability benefits is denied, we will continue to work with you throughout the appeals process. At this stage, working with our experienced attorneys will improve the likelihood of your claim being approved. If a lawsuit in federal court becomes necessary, we will give you an honest assessment of your chances for success.
At Peña & Bromberg, PLC, our team is dedicated to helping the disabled obtain the benefits they have earned. Call our office today for a free consultation or complete the contact form on our website.
Peña & Bromberg, PLC serves clients throughout Central Valley, California including San Francisco Bay, Oakland, Bakersfield, Madera, Stockton, Fresno, Sacramento, & Modesto. The office assists Social Security Disability and Veterans Disability clients nationwide. Member – National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR).