Understanding the Social Security Disability Claims Process

In addition to providing for retirement income, Social Security also provides benefits for those who are disabled and find themselves unable to work or otherwise struggling to make ends meet because of a “disability.” But obtaining benefits under either the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs is not as easy as simply filing an application and claiming that you are “disabled.”


In fact, the very specific definition of what constitutes a “disability” for purposes of receiving SSDI or SSI benefits and the failure of applicants to understand this definition and provide the appropriate information to support their claim means that hundreds of thousands of claims are denied every year. In fiscal year 2013, almost half of the claims filed in New Hampshire were initially denied, and even fewer were allowed on appeal.


The steps it can take to ultimately obtain SSDI or SSI benefits can involve multiple stages, complicated requirements, voluminous paperwork, and hearings before administrative law judges. Given the high denial rate and time-consuming nature of the process, having an experienced Social Security disability benefits lawyer on your side can go a long way toward ensuring that you get the benefits you deserve.


The SSDI or SSI process can go through a number of potential stages. Generally, these can include:


  1. Application

The process begins with filing an application for benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). This can be done online, by phone, by mail, or in person at any one of the six SSA “field offices” in New Hampshire. The application must be accompanied by a significant amount of employment, tax, medical, and other documentation.


Your application and supporting documentation will be reviewed and if your claim is approved, you will begin receiving your benefits thereafter as long as you remain disabled. However, as noted, approximately half of initial requests for disability benefits filed in New Hampshire are denied.


  1. Request for Reconsideration

If your claim is denied, the next step is to file a Request for Reconsideration and Appeal Disability Report with your local SSA field office.  Someone who was not involved in the initial denial of your claim will review your medical records and make a new determination about your disability.


  1. Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge

If your request for reconsideration is denied, you can appeal that decision and request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Manchester.


The ALJ will review your file and a hearing will be held. At the hearing, evidence will be presented and testimony will be heard from you, your doctors, medical and other experts who may testify at your request or the request of the ALJ.


  1. Appeals Council Review

If the ALJ has denied your claim for benefits, you can appeal the ALJs decision to the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council does not evaluate the merits of your claim but simply determines whether the ALJ made an error in ruling on your claim.


  1. District Court Case

If the Appeals Council denies your request for review, which happens most of the time, you can then appeal the decision to the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire.


Needless to say, the process of seeking and obtaining benefits can be lengthy and time-consuming. If you are considering filing for SSDI or SSI benefits or have already applied only to have your application denied, a skilled Social Security disability benefits lawyer can help you at every step of the process and increase your odds of a successful claim.


Bouchard, Kleinman & Wright, P.A. : New Hampshire Social Security Disability Benefit Attorneys

For clients throughout New Hampshire, the attorneys at Bouchard, Kleinman & Wright P.A. provide exceptional and personalized counsel in a number of areas critical to people’s everyday lives. If you need to apply for or appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Income and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits, please call (603) 623-7222 for a free consultation, and to learn more about how we can help you get the benefits you deserve.


This article has been prepared by Bouchard, Kleinman & Wright,P.A., for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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