If you have serious disability, you likely cannot work and are wondering how you’re going to pay your daily expenses. The Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits program is available to provide financial assistance to help you cover these costs if you qualify.

Although this is good news for many people, soon after starting to apply, you’ll likely find that the process is a long and difficult one. The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives millions of applications every year, and they initially deny far more than they approve.

Don’t give up if your SSD application is rejected at first.

When this happens, applicants can appeal on many different levels – and many applicants go on to receive the SSD benefits they deserve. This process can be difficult and take even more time before you receive the benefits you need.

It takes Kentucky Courage to fight for the SSD benefits you need and deserve. We know you have it, and the SSD lawyers at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer have Kentucky Courage too. We also have the skills and experience necessary to help you at every step in the SSD process.

If you need to appeal a decision, or are preparing your application for the first time, contact us now for a free discussion about how we can help you.

Initial Application

When filing for disability in Kentucky, you’ll have to provide certain documents to prove you are eligible for benefits. Having these prepared can help expedite the lengthy process. The documents you may need to provide include:

  • A birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigrant status
  • Discharge papers from the United States military, if you served prior to 1968
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns for the previous year
  • An Adult Disability Report to provide more details about your condition, as well as your work history
  • Medical records, such as doctors’ reports and test results
  • Proof of workers’ compensation benefits such as settlement agreements or pay stubs

The SSA will accept photocopies of tax documents such as W-2 forms and medical documents. You must however, provide the originals of other documents, such as your birth certificate.

You will also need additional information when applying for disability benefits. The SSA will ask you if you or anyone else has ever applied for benefits on your behalf, whether you earned an income every year since 1978, and if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime.

The SSA will also ask basic information, such as your name and age, if you’re married, and if you have children. If you are married or have children, you’ll also need to provide the SSA with the names and ages of your spouse and children.

Disability Determination Process

When you apply for SSD, you will likely apply through a local office. Even when you apply online, it’s a local office that will process your application.

Representatives in these offices collect applications in person, by phone, mail, or by receiving them online. Throughout the application process you will answer questions about your impairment, treatments you’ve been receiving, and other information relating to your disability. A representative will then verify non-medical eligibility requirements, such as your age, marital status, and employment history.

During this process, the SSA will also determine if you are disabled according to their definition. To be considered disabled, you must have a medical condition that falls under Social Security’s disability definition. You must also be unable to work for at least one year, or your condition is expected to end in death. Additionally, you must have also collected enough Social Security work credits, which are based on your yearly income. This evaluation is typically made by Disability Determination Services (DDSs).

First Decision

The DDS will also attempt to obtain evidence from your medical sources, such as your medical reports. If that evidence is not available, or there is not enough to help them make a decision, they may ask you to submit to a consultative exam (CE). This exam will provide the SSA with any additional information they require. When possible, your treating physician can conduct the CE, but the DDS may reach out to an independent physician for the exam.

After the DDS has evaluated all of the evidence, they will then make the initial disability determination. The DDS will return the case to the appropriate field office for further action to be taken.

If the DDS finds in their evaluation that you are disabled, the SSA will complete the non-disability development if it is outstanding, calculate the amount of benefits you are to receive, and begin paying you those benefits. If the DDS finds that you are not disabled, the file is still sent to the field office where it will remain, in case you decide to appeal the decision.

Preparing an Appeal

If your application is denied initially, you can begin to prepare your appeal. The first step you should take is to speak to a Kentucky SSD attorney who can help. The process is long and complex, and an attorney can help pursue a successful appeal.

The first process of the appeal is to submit a request for reconsideration. During this phase, you will resubmit your application and ask the SSA to reconsider it. An attorney can help determine if there is additional information you should include when requesting a reconsideration. Sometimes, simply reorganizing the facts of your case is enough to get a denial overturned.

Appeal Deadline

When the SSA makes a decision on your application, they will send you a notice in the mail to notify you of their decision. If you have been denied, the SSA will tell you why they denied your application. The notice will also tell you how long you have to appeal the decision, if you choose to do so.

Generally speaking, you will have 60 days from the date you receive the notice to appeal a decision.

Reconsideration Decision

The reconsideration stage of appeal is very similar to when you initially submitted your application. However, the main difference is that the examiner in this phase will have had nothing to do with your initial application. They will be given all of the information about your case, but until you request a reconsideration, the examiner will have never seen or heard your case before.

The amount of time it takes to receive the reconsideration will depend on how quickly the new examiner receives the medical records, and if they require additional questionnaires pertaining to your activities of daily living (ADLs). Additional CEs may also be necessary, which will cause the reconsideration decision to take longer, as well.

Deadline to Appeal for Hearing

If, after reconsideration, your application is still denied, you can take your case to the next phase of the appeals process, which is the hearing. The hearing takes place in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will hear testimony from expert witnesses, and you will also have a chance to speak about your disability.

Just as you received a notice after being denied initially, you will also receive a notice if you have been denied after the SSA reconsiders your application. If you choose to appeal this decision as well, you will have another 60 days from receiving your notice to file your appeal and take your case to the next step.

Preparing for a Hearing

After going through the first stage of appeal, it can take up to one year for your hearing to be scheduled. You definitely want to be prepared for it when that date comes.

The most important thing you can do to prepare for your hearing is to collect additional medical records. The SSA will likely not gather these additional records, but they are crucial to your case and could give you a much better chance of a successful outcome at your hearing. The ALJ will want to see medical records that are up to date, and will not accept your old medical records to determine if you are disabled.

The SSA is required to provide you with at least 75 days’ notice before your hearing to tell you of the date of your hearing. This should be plenty of time to contact your doctor and request current medical records. If necessary, you should also have new testing done that can back up your claims.

While requesting your updated records, also ask for a statement from your doctor. This is known as a medical source statement, and should include work activities that you can no longer perform, such as sitting for more than 20 minutes or being unable to regularly lift a certain weight. In addition to your doctor’s statement, you can also ask your friends, family members, and caregivers for statements outlining your limitations.

To ensure you’re prepared for your hearing, you should also fully review your case file. You will likely have to request it from the SSA, but they must provide you with it. After reviewing your case file, you can determine if your file is missing medical information, or if there were mistakes made when you were originally denied. Reviewing your file can also help you prepare arguments that will give you a better chance of a decision being made in your favor after the hearing.

If you haven’t done so yet, you should speak to an attorney that can prepare you for the hearing, and represent you during it. Most appeals are overturned at the hearing stage, and an attorney can help ensure yours is a success. One way attorneys do this is by preparing you for the questions you’ll be asked. An attorney will prepare practice questions and advise you how to answer them. An attorney can also fully explain what you can expect to happen at your hearing.

What to Expect at a Hearing

SSDI hearings are held either within 75 miles of your home or, if you agree, by video conferencing. No matter where or how your hearing is held, there are a few things you can expect.

  • You will be questioned by the judge. A judge will ask you about your medical condition, medical treatment you have received, and your employment history. The judge will also ask you about your educational background and will ask you to describe how your disability has affected your life. Always answer all questions honestly and provide as much detail as possible.
  • During the hearing, an attorney is allowed to speak on your behalf. Your attorney can argue your case and ask you questions to provide more information on your condition. Your answers to these questions can further substantiate claims of your disability.
  • You can also expect expert witnesses to attend your hearing. These experts will also be asked about your condition and if you are unable to work because of it. Medical experts can provide further information about your disability, and vocational experts may testify on certain jobs you could still perform.
  • The ALJ will also ask you questions about your disability. In most cases, they will ask you if you would like to make any additional comments. This is important because it allows you a chance to address issues you haven’t been able to up to that point. It also gives you a chance to address the testimony of any witnesses, such as why you can’t perform a job a vocational expert may have said you could.

Many people expect that after the hearing, the judge will give them a decision right away. This isn’t true, unfortunately. You typically won’t receive the judge’s decision until 30 days after the hearing, although you may hear sooner than that. In some cases, a judge may make their decision right at the hearing, but this only happens in cases that involve extenuating circumstances.

How a Kentucky Disability Lawyer Can Help You

Suffering a disability is difficult enough. You shouldn’t have to also go through an extremely long and difficult process to receive the benefits you need to pay for medical treatment and daily expenses. However, if you want to receive Social Security Disability benefits, that’s exactly what you’ll need to do. But you don’t have to do it by yourself.

At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, our Kentucky disability attorneys can help. We can assist with your initial application and, if you’re denied, prepare for the appeals process. We’ll advise on what you can expect during your hearing, and give you the best chance of success during it.

If you’ve suffered a disability, don’t go through this process on your own. Contact us for your free consultation to learn how we can help you start the process of receiving disability benefits.