AUBURN, OPELIKA AND GEORGIA SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY LAWYERS
Social Security is a right afforded to us as Americans. If you have a job or have worked in the past, chances are good that a portion of your paycheck has been taken out to pay in to the Social Security system. It is important to know that this program was implemented to provide a safety net to Americans for their retirement, and in cases of need. Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it something to avoid. It is there for a good reason, to help those who are going through a hard time. Being a government program, however, it is complicated, and it can be difficult for individuals to become approved for benefits if they are not familiar with the process.
If you have become disabled and need help getting approved for Social Security Disability, Alsobrook Jackson, Attorneys at Law are here to help. We understand the complexities of the Social Security process, and we can help get you the relief you need for you and your family. We work closely with our clients, and we are there through each step to skillfully guide you through the process.
At The Alsobrook Jackson Law Firm, we are experienced in handling a wide variety of Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) matters. This includes but is not limited to:
- Help applying for Social Security Disability
- Helping you understand your rights if you are denied
- Taking your case before the Administrative Office of Courts
- Filing of appeals on your behalf
The Social Security Disability (SSDI) Application Process
Applying for SSDI benefits can be complex and confusing. There are several forms that need to be filled out, and you will be asked to submit supplemental information about the debilitating condition for which you are seeking benefits. If you do not submit all that is required, your application may be returned to you and put on hold until you send in what they are asking for. To avoid these types of delays, it is important that the initial application be complete and thorough.
Once your application is received by the Social Security Administration (SSA), they review it to make sure it meets all the technical requirements. As mentioned previously, if there is something missing, they will return the application to you. If the initial application looks good, the SSA sends it on to a disability examiner for review. It may take a while for the disability examiner to look at your application, depending on the caseload in the office where the application ends up. In some cases, it could be several weeks before the application is reviewed.
Once the disability examiner reviews your application, the first thing they look for is to see if your debilitating condition is an exact match for any of the SSA’s listing of disabling impairments (also known as the “Blue Book”). If your condition matches one of those listed in the Blue Book, the examiner will typically approve your application fairly quickly. The conditions listed in the Blue Book are very specific, however, and only a small percentage of applicants have an initial match. When there is no exact match, you can still get approved for benefits, but your application requires a more extensive review.
At this point, it must be shown that your debilitating condition is medically equivalent to one that is listed in the Blue Book. Some examples of circumstances in which your condition may be medically equivalent include:
- The applicant has a condition that is similar in severity to one of those listed in the Blue Book;
- The applicant has no matching impairment, but has several other conditions and their combined effects are medically equivalent to at least one impairment listed in the Blue Book;
- The applicant has one of the conditions listed in the Blue Book, but they do not meet the specific criteria spelled out in the listing. In such cases, you can still get approved if you have other symptoms that can make your condition medically equivalent.
When SSDI applicants apply for benefits on their own, they often have difficulty demonstrating to the SSA that their condition is either an exact match to one of the SSA’s listing of impairments, or that their condition (or totality of conditions) is medically equivalent. Approval rates vary by region, but statewide, only about 30% of SSDI applicants in Alabama are approved for benefits. The initial approval rate is similarly low in other states as well.
To vastly increase your chances of approval right away, it is best to work with a seasoned Social Security Disability attorney. An attorney with in-depth knowledge of the SSDI application process can ensure that your application is complete, thorough, and clearly demonstrates that your condition qualifies for benefits.
Denied SSDI Benefits? There is Still Hope
Approximately 70% of SSDI applicants are denied initially, so if you are at this stage, you are not alone and there is no reason to give up hope. There is an appeal process in place that allows your case to be heard before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), where you can seek to have the initial denial reversed. In Alabama, there is a 60-day deadline from the date of your denial to request an ALJ hearing. 60 days is a very short window, so it is best to act quickly if you still want to pursue SSDI benefits.
ALJ hearings are conducted at four locations statewide; Mobile, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Florence. Processing times vary by location, but on average, you can expect to wait several months for your case to be heard. It is important to note that if you are a resident of Florida or Georgia, the appeals process is slightly different. There is an additional step that must be taken before the case is heard by an Administrative Law Judge. This is known as Request for Reconsideration. Only about 15% of applications are approved at this level, so if you have been denied at this stage, there is still no reason to give up.
Applicants have a better chance of becoming approved for SSDI benefits at the ALJ hearing level; approval rates at this level are approximately 50%. This is a critical stage, because you need to present sufficient evidence for the ALJ to reverse the initial decision. This is where the help of an experienced attorney can often make the difference between success and failure.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Alabama Social Security Disability Attorney
Alsobrook Jackson, Attorneys at Law has helped numerous clients become approved for the benefits they need and deserve. We understand that when you are out of work and have mounting medical bills, finances are tight, and it is tough to make ends meet. We provide free consultations, and we never charge any upfront attorney fees in Social Security Disability cases. You only pay us if we secure benefits for you.
If you or a loved one has a debilitating condition and you need help getting approved for SSDI or SSI benefits in Alabama, contact our office today at 334.737.3718 to schedule your free consultation. You may also send us a message through our web contact form or stop by our office in Opelika.