The first step in the Social Security Disability claims process is the application. If you have a condition which you believe will meet the 12 month disability requirement, you should call our office to discuss your case with an experienced Los Angeles social security lawyer.
We recommend that you wait until you are off work for at least five months to start the application process. The reason for this is that if you apply after you have been off of work for less than five months, in most cases your claim will be denied with the excuse that your condition is not severe enough to keep you from working after 12 months.
Approximately 80%-85% of Social Security Disability claims are denied at the initial application level. The reason for this is that in the last seven years, the budget for Social Security Disability Adjudication has been cut, many employees have left the agency, and they are not properly staffed to handle the increasing volume of claims. The local offices many times can’t fully evaluate the claim and therefore many good claims are denied at initial application.
Our office will obtain the file from Social Security to find out why your claim was denied. It may be that they did not get all of the records or contact all of your doctors. We will try to get additional information if possible and file a Reconsideration of the denial of the application.
- Video: Social Security Claims Process – Step 1
- Video: Social Security Claims Process – Step 2
Many claims are again denied at the Reconsideration stage. We will file a Request for Administrative Law Judge Hearing. During the time between our Request for Hearing and the actual hearing, we will communicate with the Office of Disability Adjudication Review using a direct connection over the internet to submit additional evidence with the goal of getting your claim approved without having to attend the hearing.
The hearing is the most important part of the appeal process. It is essential to have legal representation to maximize your chances at this stage. An Administrative Law Judge will take testimony from you, witnesses, and other experts as appropriate. The testimony will be taken under oath, but the hearing is generally somewhat informal. It is private, usually held in a small room with only the Judge and his assistant, you, your attorney, and possibly your spouse or a friend.
The medical records will be admitted into evidence. You will be asked questions, either by the Judge or by your attorney, which you must answer to the best of your ability or recollection.
The Administrative Law Judge may call experts including “Vocational Experts” and “Medical Advisors,” to testify about what jobs the claimant might be able to perform based upon their age, education, vocational background and what they are still able to do despite their disability.
The attorney will prepare you thoroughly for the hearing, so there is no need to be apprehensive. Its purpose is to seek the truth and to carry out the purpose of the Social Security Act.
The Judge will usually not announce their decision at the time of the hearing. A written decision will be sent to you with a copy to my office. It usually takes two to three months after the hearing to receive the decision, if not longer. Please contact my office after you have received a decision from the Administrative Law Judge.
If the decision is favorable, you should receive your first check approximately 8-12 weeks after the decision. Appeals Council: If your claim is denied by the Administrative Law Judge, the next step in the process is to send a written appeal to the Appeals Council.
The Appeals Council will review the case and may send it back to the Judge if there was an error.
If your claim is still denied after the Appeals Council level, we may consider filing a complaint in Federal Court.