Filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should be easy, and the Social Security Administration has a convenient online form to do it, but the process isn't nearly as simple as it seems.
Under Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-8p (1996), the Administrative Law Judge who hears your case (and thus determines if you are entitled to benefits) is required to consider all of the limitations imposed by your impairments, even those that are not severe and don't seem to prevent you from working. The reason behind that is simple: those "non-severe" impairments, when considered with other restrictions or limitations, can significantly hinder your ability to do basic work activities. Thus, the judge must "consider all allegations of physical and mental limitations or restrictions and make every reasonable effort to ensure that the file contains sufficient evidence to assess."
But how does the judge do that? By sifting through hundreds, potentially thousands, of pages of medical records, laboratory findings, reports about your condition, and work evaluations. Truth is, even if the judge is a very sympathetic to your medical condition and the impact it is having on your ability to work, the legal standards they have to apply are very complicated (and sometimes unforgiving), and so they may end up ruling against you simply because the evidence in your case was not been presented in the way that best fits the law. That’s why we recommend our personal injury clients retain a qualified so security disability lawyer as soon as possible in the disability benefits process. We’re more than happy to refer them - and anyone else who contacts our office - to those disability lawyers.
If you have already filed a Social Security disability claim but didn’t hire an attorney, don’t worry, because you can hire one at any time. That said, once you file a claim, there’s one thing you absolutely must do: if your claim is denied, file an appeal. The social security disability system can sometimes feel particularly discouraging, but don't give up: thousands of successful claimants every year receive their benefits on appeal after initially being denied. Again, this is another reason why we encourage our injured clients to hire a social security disability lawyer early in the application process, so the lawyer can put the medical evidence forward in the best light and then ensure their case is properly handled, including through appeals.
Finally, whether you are going through the process alone or if you have an attorney, remember what we wrote above: many times, the administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration decides your case on the basis of the medical records available to them. Thus, one of the most important things is for you to undergo all of the medical treatment that your doctors have recommended, including therapy, consultations, and any other type of healthcare professional service. To put it another way, if you’re not taking the time and effort to receive medical treatment, how is anyone else supposed to believe that you are so disabled that you can't work?
If you have been disabled and are contemplating filing for social security disability benefits in Pennsylvania, like in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Delaware counties, please contact our office for a free consultation.