Reasons to Hire a Social Security Disability Attorney to Handle Your Claim
People often think of Social Security as a government program designed to provide retirement benefits to seniors, but there are many non-retired people who receive disability benefits because they cannot work. If you have been denied Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and need to file an appeal, you are not alone.
Studies indicate that around 70 percent of disability claims through Social Security are denied on a first application attempt. Most people in need of disability benefits will eventually have to file an appeal (which is a different process from the normal application process).
Unfortunately, there’s one obstacle in their way.
The Disability Appeal Backlog
There is a huge backlog of these appeals in Washington D.C., just waiting to clear all the red tape involved in granting or denying disability benefits. How huge? As of June 2017, there are over 1.1 million claims awaiting their hearing date. The cases in this office have already been denied twice, and this third step means that the applicant will plead their case directly to a Social Security judge.
Social Security judges are required to review an applicant’s medical records themselves. They often spend hours poring over the factors involved in a single case—reading reams of poor handwriting from doctors without the help of a paralegal to lighten the load. When these judges rule on a case or appeal, they are making a decision that affects the rest of a person’s life. It’s not a decision that can be made hastily, but the pace leaves more people on the waitlist every year.
The work is slow, and made even slower by an archaic book of occupations that still includes (not a joke) jobs like “telegram messenger” and a “horse-and-wagon” driver. The internet is not mentioned at all.
Why the Backlog of SSD Appeals?
When Gerald Ford was president, these judges fell behind and the still haven’t caught up. The system is sometimes too big to fix, as reform measures are deemed too expensive or simply too difficult to implement due to the bureaucracy involved. The appeals office has become an example of what happens when a government program cannot keep pace with good intentions.
The average waiting time for a hearing? About 600 days. That is nearly two years of waiting without any income. The stresses involved with having no income, being unable to work, and seeing bills pile up is daunting, to say the least.
The Social Security Disability Process
The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits is supposed to begin this way: a person submits an application for disability benefits, which includes giving the SSD office access to their medical records. Here’s how the application
Step #1 – Reviewing the Application with a Physician (& Potential Approval)
State officials review the application and may request a medical exam by an independent physician to verify the medical ailments claimed in the application. These officials decide the fate of the applicant’s disability status. Current statistics show that only 32 percent of these cases are approved, and the typical wait time for an approval is 109 days.
Step #2 – Filing an Appeal (If Denied)
If the disability claim is one of the 68% that are denied, the person can file an appeal. Another state official reviews the case to see if the first official ruled incorrectly. Roughly 11 percent of these applications are approved at this step. In 10 states, applicants skip this step and go straight to the third step.
Step #3 – Scheduling a Hearing (If Denied Again)
The final step is another appeal, and a demand to see a Social Security judge in person…eventually. These judges are appointed for life as the government’s representative of due process. Critics argue that these judges are not trained in medicine enough to make fair decisions—they are simply attorneys thrust into an administrative role.
Regardless of their critics, your case may depend on the judge’s decision. And there are only going to be more of them—in June 2017, Congress approved $90 million in funding to hire administrative law judges and other staff.
Social Security Disability Help is Available
As you can tell, the Social Security disability process is complicated and can quickly become overwhelming. If your claim has been denied, do not be discouraged and do not give up. The Social Security disability attorneys at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLP have been helping injured people in Pennsylvania get justice since 1922. Put our legal experience to work for you so that you can focus on healing from your injuries.
We have offices throughout Pennsylvania, and we offer a free consultation so you can understand all your options. Call (888) 498-3023 or contact us online to get started right away.