How to Apply for SSDI Benefits in Maine and Beyond

478224_74079148Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a Federal program supporting workers with disabilities who have worked long enough and paid sufficient Social Security taxes through their past employment. In order to get SSDI benefits, you must first apply through the Social Security Administration (SSA), which complex set of procedures can be made much simpler with the assistance of an experienced Social Security attorney.  The application process is detailed and lengthy, and it can take several months before you receive a decision approving or denying the claim.  Even if approved, SSDI benefits are not payable until after a full five month waiting period has been met.

Meeting with a knowledgeable attorney before you decide to apply for SSDI benefits can be beneficial in understanding your rights and protecting your interests. If you retain the help of a qualified attorney, your attorney will initiate the application process for you. Applicants can also apply online through the SSA website or by appointment over the phone or at a Social Security office. Your attorney can advise you as to the information and records required for the application, as well as help you gather the materials. This will generally include information regarding your birth and citizenship, marital status and children, any military service, work history and employers, education, financial asset information, and your medical treatment providers, and possibly additional information and documentation. Applicants must also sign and submit a form authorizing the release of their medical records. Once the application and all required forms are submitted by you and your attorney, SSA will verify that you meet the non-medical requirements for SSDI benefits. These requirements are based on your age at the time of disability, how long and how much you paid Social Security taxes and where these earnings fell in relation to when your disability began.  If you meet the earnings qualification, SSA sends your case to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state for a medical assessment.

DDS will make the initial determination of whether you qualify as disabled under the federal definition.  Specifically, disabled means that you have a physical or mental impairment that has prevented you, or is expected to prevent you, from engaging in any substantial and gainful work activity for a continuous period of one year. DDS will evaluate all of the available medical evidence that your doctors have provided via the medical release. Your attorney is able to assist DDS in this process should there be difficulties with obtaining the medical documentation from your providers.  If DDS decides that it does not have all of the required or current medical records or sufficient information, a claims examiner will typically schedule a consultation examination. A consultation examination is a physical or mental exam performed by a medical professional on behalf of SSA to provide the current status of a SSDI applicant’s condition. DDS considers many factors in deciding whether an applicant is disabled, including whether the applicant is currently working, whether the applicant’s condition is sufficiently severe, whether the applicant’s medical condition is included on the List of Impairments, and whether the applicant can perform his or her current work or any other type of work. Should DDS decide that an applicant’s condition does not meet the federal definition of disability, it will deny the applicant SSDI benefits. However, applicants can appeal that decision through various appeals, which their attorney can explain in detail.

Because an estimated 70% of all initial claims for SSDI benefits are denied, it is crucial to provide complete information and understand your rights during this process. A qualified SSDI attorney can help explain and guide you through this entire procedure, include the initial application for SSDI benefits. Fortunately, every person has the right to be represented by an attorney or other representative while pursuing SSDI benefits and during any appeal. Your attorney would file any of the additional paperwork to establish their representation and approval as their legal representative, and would then either initiate with you the filing of your claim or your appeal depending on where you are in the process.  An attorney’s fees are contingent on winning, and fees are limited by federal law to 25% of the past due benefits obtained (and capped, presently, at $6,000.00).

A call to the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 for a no cost consultation can help you ensure your case gets moving in the right direction.