Americans who file for disability claims through the Social Security Administration (SSA) are denied more often than not during the initial stages of the application process. Once they go on to appeal the SSA’s decision, the process can be frustrating and lengthy.
Out of the nearly four million residents of the state of Tennessee, approximately 5.7% receive disability benefits from the SSA. In the first stage of the appeal, called the Request for Reconsideration, less than 20% of these appeals are decided in favor of the applicants.
From there, applicants must go through a second stage of appeal, which in Tennessee can take anywhere from 256 to 447 days just to obtain a hearing before the judge. After the hearing, it can be another two to three months before the applicant will receive a decision from the administrative law judge.
The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) handles all SSD hearings, and the area in Tennessee in which the applicant lives and that each ODAR office serves will affect how long it will take for the hearing to be scheduled.
The importance of legal representation for SDD claims
A seasoned and knowledgeable Social Security Disability attorney can help you to build a claim that works within the parameters of the broad criteria that the SSA uses in assessing claims. Building a strong claim at the outset will reduce the chance of having to go through the denial and appeal process that so many have to experience.
Some of the considerations that experienced legal counsel will target are:
- submitting detailed medical records and opinions of medical providers to the SSA
- compiling supporting documents from family and friends
- helping with the complicated SSA forms
- representation at all hearings.
Defining disability and understanding eligibility
Although the Social Security Act, signed in 1935, extended benefits only to retired workers who were 65 or older, over time Disability Insurance was added under the Eisenhower Administration and the age of eligibility lowered to applicants and their children, with subsequent legislation further expanding or limiting categories.
Social Security only pays for total disability, not for partial or short-term disability. To be eligible, the applicant must:
- have filed for benefits and have a Social-Security defined disability,
- be younger than full retirement age and
- be insured for benefits.
The criteria that define disability are quite specific and include blindness, disease or mental condition that limits any substantial or gainful activity, that is expected to result in death or last for at least 12 months.