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The Unfortunate Reality Check for Social Security Disability

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Stand up nice and straight, and take a look at yourself in the mirror. You might call yourself healthy, wouldn’t you? Some of you might carry a couple extra pounds, some of you might be sore here and there, but overall you can still get by pretty easily. You can go about the daily grind without much trouble: put in your time at work, do some grocery shopping, perhaps even get a jog in at some point.

Now, imagine you wake up and you can barely stand. Or you suffer a seemingly unbearable pain that makes your head spin. You go to the doctor in search of a solution just to be told something horrible, that you carry some sort of genetic disease or that the damage you’ve suffered is nigh-on permanent. Your entire life has changed in an instant. And unfortunately, that’s probably the only part of the experience that will be instantaneous.

Being afflicted with this disease or disability, you suddenly find it exceedingly difficult to do the things that you were used to doing on a daily basis. You can barely sit up in bed now, let alone take that morning jog. The inconvenience of getting into a car and driving makes getting those groceries nearly impossible. And let’s not forget being able to support yourself or anyone who might be depending on you. The pain or debilitating sickness your body wracks you with makes it difficult to get through any typical workday, let alone stringing them together. You eventually lose your job simply because you can’t perform it anymore.

Now what?

This is the question left to many who find themselves in a situation where their income and their livelihoods, as a result, have been put in jeopardy by disability. Most people start the process of filing for disability through Social Security. Unfortunately, over the years, this has proven to be a tedious errand at best.

After initially filing for disability, one can generally expect to wait around 100 days for a decision to be made. Keep your calculators out. So far, we’re at over 3 months just to hear an initial decision. According to the Social Security Disability SSI Resource Center, a national average of about 70% of all initial claims are denied. So, that’s three months waiting for a no.

At this point, applicants can file a reconsideration appeal within 65 days, which is basically a repeat of the initial process except a different person is reviewing your file. While this is substantially shorter (about 60 days, also according to the SSDRC), it is also reported that this step in the process of filing for disability has the highest rate of denial – 85 to 90%, with variance depending on your state of residence. So, with a little math…about 3 out of every 5 people who file for disability wait around half a year just to be told they aren’t getting it.

Applicants still have the option of requesting an appeal for a review by an administrative law judge within another 65 days if it comes to that. The catch, of course, is that the wait for such a hearing takes significantly longer than when you initially filed – twelve to fifteen months after submission.

So, that’s over three months after the initial claim. Another two if an appeal is required. And then twelve to fifteen should you need to file for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

That’s over a year and a half for those who need to run the full gauntlet. And you still somehow have to make ends meet through that entire process.

Some would be quick to point out that staffing within Social Security is limited at this time, resulting in a major backlog of cases. And that may or may not be a valid reason. The unfortunate reality is that the system is very much lacking at this point to take care of those who need it, regardless of the why. To go along with a bothersome waiting period, applicants also need to meet rather stringent criteria, one of the conditions being that your disability must have lasted or will last at least one full year. Which seems ironic when most cases already take more than a year to receive approval. Our advice; when you finally get that hearing, go in with a social security attorney who knows their stuff. After waiting on average for almost two years, you really can’t afford to put it all on the line by yourself.


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