What to expect during the Social Security disability process
If you are dealing with a disability, here are a few things to know about disability benefits and what you can expect during the process:
If it appears that your disabling condition will last a year or more, or in the unfortunate circumstance that a condition is expected to result in death, you should apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) as soon as possible. After the required waiting period, those who qualify receive a monthly benefit and Medicare coverage for as long as they remain disabled. Note: If you wait too long to file for Social Security disability, you may receive fewer retroactive benefits and in some cases may put the entire claim at risk, so don’t delay.
How long does it take to receive a decision once a SSD claim is filed?
It can take anywhere from five to eight months before receiving a decision on initial application. Processing times at the reconsideration and hearing levels can vary greatly from year to year, but in many cases may take months or even years.
What if my claim is denied? Can I appeal?
If your Social Security disability claim is initially denied, don’t give up. Your claim may be appealed, and many claims are eventually awarded through the appeals process.
There are four levels of appeal (listed in order) in the SSD process:
- Reconsideration – A review of the claim by someone who did not take part in the first decision. The original evidence is reviewed along with any new information you provide.
- Hearing by an administrative law judge – For lower South Carolina, these typically take place in the Charleston Social Security Administration office, located next to The Law Offices of Robertson Wendt. You can appear personally with your attorney or attend via video conference. Most cases are won at this level.
- Review by the Appeals Council – If the Administrative Law Judge denies your case, you may ask the Appeals Council to review that decision. The Appeals Council may return your case to the Administrative Law Judge for a new hearing.
- Federal Court review – If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you may file a lawsuit in Federal District Court. You must have an attorney admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court in South Carolina to represent you at this level.
For more information on the hearing levels and your options, you may want to visit the Social Security Administration's web page on appeals.
Is there a waiting period before an individual can receive benefits?
Yes, there is a five month waiting period after the month disability begins in which you are not entitled to receive any disability insurance benefits.
How long will disability benefits continue?
Benefits will continue as long as the medical condition persists and prevents you from returning to work.
If I start feeling better after getting on Social Security disability benefits, can I return to work?
Yes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) actually encourages individuals to return to work and offers work incentives, a trial period during which an individual can still receive benefits. However, do make sure to check with your legal counsel before returning to work, as you do not want to do anything to jeopardize your benefits.