Answer: First, you must contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the purpose of filing an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits, or both. The SSA will take your application(s) and provide you with other related documents to complete and file. If your application is denied, the SSA will mail you a notice explaining why your application was denied and informing you that if you want to appeal the determination, you must file with the SSA within a prescribed period a SSA form entitled "Request for Reconsideration" and related documents. If your application is again denied, the SSA will mail you a notice explaining why your application was again denied and informing you that if you want to appeal further you must file with the SSA within a prescribed period a "Request for Hearing" and related documents. Thereafter, a hearing will be scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). There are additional levels of appeal available if you disagree with the ALJ decision. If your application is approved at any of the aforementioned levels, the SSA will calculate and pay your benefits, including any past-due benefits.
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Answer: Based upon questionnaires completed by you, the Social Security Administration (through a "State Agency") will obtain copies of records from the physicians and other medical care or mental health providers who have treated or examined you within the relevant period. You may also be scheduled for an examination or evaluation by a physician or psychologist. If there are additional records that document your impairments or limitations, you may submit them as additional evidence in support of your claim of disability. In addition, the "State Agency" will request that you or others who have knowledge of your impaired condition complete and submit questionnaires concerning your condition. Finally, if necessary, your testimony and the testimony of others at a hearing will provide evidence of the nature, severity, and persistence of your impairements and resulting work-related functional limitations, such as your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push, pull, reach, manipulate, grip, bend, stoop, kneel , crouch, crawl, concentrate, remember, communicate, comprehend, cooperate, and persist in a work setting.
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Answer: Generally, your period of disability must last, or must be expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months, or be expected to result in death. However, with regard to the 12 month durational period, you need not prove that you have been or will be completely and continuously unable to work. Rather, you need only prove that you are or will be unable to engage in "substantial gainful activity" during a period of at least 12 months. There are separate rules and regulations that define "substantial gainful activity" and other rules and regulations that can result in a finding of disability despite the fact that you may be capable of successfully performing jobs that are less physically demanding than jobs you have performed within the last 15 years.
Answer: Yes, and if a claimant has physical impairments and cannot perform any of the jobs he or she has performed within the last 15 years, attaining the ages of 50, 55, or 60 can significantly improve the claimants chances of being found disabled. Consequently, if you had a prior disability claim denied and thereafter attained, or will soon attain, one of these "age changes" you many be awarded benefits upon the filing of a new application because of your age change.
Answer: Only if it is found that you would not be disabled in the absence of your substance dependence disorder. However, that can be difficult to determine without a significant period of abstinence, especially if you are relying upon being found disabled based upon a mental impairment. Abstinence is definitely the best policy.
Answer: Most claimants for disability benefits before the Social Security Administration (SSA) are able to competently represent themselves until there is a need to request a hearing. There are exceptions, especially in the case of claimants with severe mental impairments who lack any effective support from others. However, if your disability claim is denied, you may become discouraged, frustrated, intimidated, and overwhelmed by SSA's disability determination process. At that point, having an experienced disability attorney representing you should significantly reduce your level of anxiety and significantly improve the likelihood that your claim will be apporved, especially if there is a need to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.