If you are looking to obtain disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, your claim will undergo an extensive evaluation. In fact, your claim will be reviewed not only by a disability examiner in the local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office in your state but an examiner in Disability Determination Services as well. Ultimately, the majority of initial benefits claims are denied, which makes working with an experienced disability benefits attorney essential.
Disability Attorneys of Arizona works to help individuals and families navigate the disability benefits claim process. We have working knowledge of the eligibility requirements for obtaining SSDI and SSI and a well-earned reputation for being dedicated advocates of the disabled. During our many years of practice, we have established strong working relationships with disability examiners, which is helpful when shepherding an application through the bureaucracy of the SSA. When you become our client, you will have peace of mind, knowing that your disability benefits claim is in good hands.
What happens at the local SSA field office?
The first step in the disability benefits claims process is to submit an application with the local field office in your state. The application must be completed correctly and contain all the required information about your sources of medical treatment. At this stage, a disability examiner will review your claim to verify that the application is complete and that you meet the basic eligibility requirements for SSDI and SSI.
To qualify for SSDI, you must have paid into the Social Security system and acquired sufficient work credits based on your age. For SSI, you must have limited financial resources. If you have acquired the requisite number of work credits for SSDI, or meet the asset and income tests for SSI, your claim will be forwarded to Disability Determination Services, where another disability examiner will conduct a more extensive review of your claim.
What does the disability examiner at DDS do?
Disability examiners at DDS play a large role in determining whether your claim will be approved since their role is to assess whether your condition meets the definition of a disability. Basically, you must have a medical impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least 1 year or result in death.
The disability examiner will request the medical records from the medical treatment sources listed on your disability application. Therefore, it is critically important that your treating physicians are aware that you are seeking disability benefits and that they provide the necessary medical records (e.g. records of doctor’s visits, diagnostic tests, X Rays, surgeries, prescription medication, and any rehabilitative care) to the examiner as quickly as possible.
Moreover, the disability examiner will need to obtain not only current medical records to document that you are presently disabled, but also earlier medical records to verify the onset date of your disability, so that you also receive disability back pay.
Once DDS receives the necessary information about your medical history, the disability examiner will evaluate your claim to verify that your condition is included in SSA’s listing of medical impairments, known as the Blue Book. If your condition is not on the list, your claim may still be approved provided that it is medically equivalent to a listed impairment. Nonetheless, the majority of cases are not approved on the basis of the disability listing.
Ultimately, disability examiner’s medical determination involves ascertaining your current level of physical and/or mental functioning because disability claims are largely determined based on what type of work activity you are no longer capable of performing. This is a matter of determining your functional limitations. Functional limitations may be exertional (e.g. your ability or inability to sit, stand, lift, or carry) and non-exertional (the degree to which you can, or cannot, reach, bend, hear, see, smell, concentrate, remember, interact with other individuals in a work setting). In any event, functional limitations must rule out your ability to do the same work you did in the past, or any other type of work.
As part of this determination, the disability examiner will also likely require you to undergo a consultative exam (or a Social Security medical exam). This exam is conducted by an independent physician chosen by the SSA, and the results of the consultative exam will play a large role in the outcome of your disability benefits claim.
As you can see, this applying for disability benefits is a lengthy and complicated process that can take from 6 to 9 months, if not longer. Moreover, about two-thirds of initial claims are denied, which means that you must go through the appeals process to have any chance of obtaining these vital public benefits.
Contact Our Arizona Social Security Disability Attorney
Because applying for disability benefits is a complicated process, and because the majority of initial benefits claims are denied, the best decision you can make is to work with an experienced disability benefits attorney. When you come to Disability Attorneys of Arizona, we will work closely with you and your medical team to make sure that all of your medical records are complete and accurate. If your claim is denied, working with our experienced disability benefits attorney increases the likelihood of your appeal being approved. Knowing that navigating the benefit claim process while coping with a serious mental or physical impairment is daunting, we will offer you knowledge, compassion, and superior personal service. Please contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.