Social Security considers you disabled if you are unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) as the result of one or more medical conditions that has lasted, or is expected to last 12 months, or that is expected to result in death.
Your condition must prevent you from performing work, either completely or to such an extent that the work performed does not constitute SGA. This includes work, school or work-like activity, whether you are paid or not.
It is not just a matter of whether or not you can perform your usual work. Social Security will base their decision upon whether you are medically able to perform any type of work – even if it is a job field that you have no experience in. It doesn’t matter if you have no transportation to get to work, or even if there is such a job available in your local area. Social Security is looking only at your medical ability to perform such work.
Someone seeking benefits must first send an application and wait an average of 106 days for a decision, according to the Social Security Administration. The agency denies nearly two-thirds of the applicants, who then can request a hearing to appeal.
Then the real wait begins. According to a recent article in The Associated Press, those who received a hearing last fiscal year had waited nearly a year and half on average — twice the wait time in 2000, according to the SSA. More than 765,000 people — about double the number in 1998 — are now waiting for a hearing. Even with a $500 million infusion from the federal stimulus program, it could take years to clear the backlog.
If you believe that you are disabled, you will need to apply for Social Security disability benefits. You should do this as soon as possible, as the date you file may affect the amount of your benefits if you are approved. Before an attorney can assist you, you MUST file an application for SSDI and be DENIED. At that point, you have SIXTY (60) DAYS to file an appeal. In most cases, you do NOT need a lawyer when you file your application. However, if you are denied benefits, the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At this point, an attorney can be a great help to your case. It is to your benefit to have a knowledgeable representative who understands the issues in your case and how best to present them to the Judge.
There are two easy ways to apply for SSDI, depending upon your preference:
Use a computer and apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability
Call the toll-free number at (800) 772-1213
If you are applying for SSI, you will have to apply by phone.
If you have been denied for Social Security benefits, please contact our office to discuss your rights.