If you live in Lancaster County and become disabled, you have options. You may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance, a monthly benefit paid to you and your family if you are no longer able to work. The Social Security Administration maintains the SSD program to assist those who have worked a specified number of years and have paid Social Security taxes.
Unfortunately, securing those benefits is no easy task. The reality is that an average of 63 percent of those who apply for Social Security Disability benefits have their initial claim denied. The Social Security Administration reports that from 2007 to 2016, an average of only 22 percent of applicants were awarded benefits at the initial claim level. About two percent were awarded benefits at the reconsideration level and nine percent at the hearing level.
Millions of people file Social Security Disability claims each year, including about 145,000 in Pennsylvania alone. Applying for SSD benefits is a complicated process filled with challenges and pitfalls, but many of those challenges can be overcome, even if your claim is initially denied. Understanding the process and seeking the assistance of a qualified attorney can help. Here’s what you should know:
Many Social Security Disability Claims are Denied Due to Technicalities
It may seem like your health condition should be the primary criteria in determining whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. However, you can be denied based on technical criteria that have nothing to do with your medical issue.
Technical denials can be issued if you are able to perform work that brings in more than a certain dollar amount per month. That figure is currently $1,220. You can be denied if you haven’t worked long enough to sufficiently pay into the Social Security program, or if you haven’t worked recently enough, generally five out of the last 10 years.
And in many cases, the denial is due to missing documents, paperwork errors, or because the Social Security Administration has miscalculated income.
Bureaucracy Can Delay the Approval and Appeal Process for Disability Claims
Even if you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, getting approval is a laborious process. The initial application process can take three to five months, and if your claim is denied, an appeal for reconsideration can take an additional three to five months. If you file an appeal for a hearing before an administrative law judge in Pennsylvania, the average wait time in Pennsylvania is 538 days due to a backlog of over 37,000 applications.
There is a 60-day Limit for Appealing a Denied Claim
While The Social Security Administration may take months to decide on your claim, you have much less time to challenge a denial. You must meet deadlines for sending documents, appealing decisions, and requesting a hearing. If you miss a deadline, you could risk losing benefits. You must appeal a Social Security Disability claim within 60 days of the denial of your claim, so it is essential to act quickly. If the SSA denies your appeal for reconsideration, you again have a limit of 60 days to request an appeal hearing before an administrative law judge.
Confusing Paperwork Can Delay Processing or Result in a Denied Claim
Paperwork errors are common reasons for denials or delays when processing a Social Security Disability. You must provide medical records establishing the date of the onset of your disability and proof that you are still disabled. You’ll also need to include documentation of all medications, their purpose, and dosage. You need to add names and addresses of all doctors and medical facilities where you have been treated. Other required paperwork includes detailed work history, any workers compensation documentation, and financial account information. Even the most organized filers can inadvertently make mistakes that lead to a denial of SSD benefits.
If you are getting ready to file a Social Security Disability claim, or if your claim has been denied, do not give up. The Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster can help. We can show you how to avoid common mistakes in the initial filing process. If your claim has already been denied, we can determine if you have a chance at overturning the decision, guide you through the appeals process and coach you for your hearing. Act quickly and contact us today for a free consultation.
Want to read more articles to help you fight denied Social Security Disability claims? Check out these articles.