The path to winning Social Security Disability benefits can be long and difficult to navigate.
If your application is denied at the initial and reconsideration levels, you have the right to an appeal hearing before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
This could be your best opportunity to be heard. Social Security Disability applicants are twice as likely to be approved for benefits at the hearing level as at the initial application level.
Additionally, a Government Accountability Office study determined that if a claimant had a representative at their hearing, such as a disability attorney, they were almost three times more likely to be allowed benefits than someone who had no representation at all.
You may wonder what happens after your appeal hearing. To get some answers we turned to Nash Disability Law attorney Bob Godnik.
Bob Godnik: The most recent trend in the Chicagoland area has been to hear back from the judge between two to three months after the hearing and once all evidence has been submitted. Still, it isn’t unusual to receive your decision sooner or later than that. Much of it depends on the judge’s workload.
Bob Godnik: You will generally have two options: either appeal to Social Security’s Appeals Council within 60 days, or file a new claim (if you are still eligible to file a new claim).
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options, and there is no “one size fits all” approach.
You should discuss your options with your Social Security Disability lawyer and not decide based on emotion. After thoroughly explaining how each of the options works, your attorney will provide a recommendation on what they believe is best for your particular situation. (For more insight on the appeals process, read our blog article, “Fighting Back: A Disability Case History”.)
Bob Godnik: After you receive the favorable decision in writing, you can expect another letter about a month later explaining your SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) benefits.
This letter will explain when you will start receiving payments, although payments may be issued before the letter arrives.
If you are eligible for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) disability benefits, you will need to have a financial interview with the SSA to confirm that you continue to meet the financial eligibility requirements.
Factors such as your living arrangements, other income, and past workers’ compensation benefits may affect the timing of your Social Security Disability payments.
Bob Godnik: Whether you receive back pay, and how much, all depends on when the judge found that your disability began.
In addition, for SSDI, you will not receive back pay for the first five months from the date the judge found that your disability began, nor will you receive back pay going back further than 12 months from your application date.
For SSI, you cannot collect benefits for any period further back than the month after you filed your application. Therefore, it is usually to your advantage to file your claim sooner rather than later. Your back benefits will cover the time you spent waiting on a decision after you filed.
Bob Godnik: If you are found to have a disability under your SSDI claim, you will become eligible for Medicare health coverage 29 months from when the SSA found that your disability officially began. Under SSI, you qualify for Medicaid immediately, but not Medicare.
Bob Godnik: The SSA may communicate with you regarding your impairments and your treatment.
You must update them with your address if you move, because failure to respond to their notices may lead to losing your benefits.
Many people will have their benefits reviewed by Social Security every three years, but there are circumstances where it can be more or less frequent depending on your impairments or whether you make an attempt to work.
These reviews are known as Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs). For more on CDRs, read our blog article, “Is Your Disability Status Under Review? Don’t Panic.”
You must continue to see your doctors and get the treatment they recommend. If not, an SSA review may find there isn’t sufficient medical documentation supporting your claim that you continue to have a qualifying disability.
Bob Godnik: If you receive a favorable decision, our firm will work with you to assure you receive the correct benefits based on the judge’s decision. And if you later decide you want to attempt a return to work, we can advise you on how that may affect your benefits. If your decision is not favorable, we will counsel you on what we believe is the best way forward.
Winning the disability benefits you have earned by working and paying taxes can be complex, confusing and difficult. But you can get expert help. Contact your local Chicago land Social Security Disability lawyers at Nash Disability Law today for a free evaluation of your unique situation.