Social Security Disability Process
At Stromatt and Associates, we understand that the disability process may feel complicated and overwhelming for you. We will meet with you and explain each step along the way, and answer your questions of how it may or may not apply to your case. We consistently monitor your claim while it is with the Social Security Administration, to make sure that they do not let your claim “slip through the cracks”. We will explain how to obtain evidence that will build your claim for an easier and quicker approval. We work with Social Security employees at each level to help them understand the limitations caused by your conditions.
Below are the steps typical in most states. All steps my not be needed, however, Stromatt and Associates will continue with your process until we exhaust all the options you wish to pursue.
Step 1: Initial Claim
We will help complete the multitude of forms that will be submitted to your local Social Security office for your initial claim. An SSA employee will process these forms and then send your claim to the Disability Determination Service (DDS). We work with the DDS adjudicator to make sure they have all of the information needed. Your claim goes back to the local office once a decision is made at DDS. From there, a notice of the decision will be mailed to you. This level generally takes 3-6 months.
Step 2: Reconsideration
If your claim is denied at the initial level, we will immediately file an appeal for reconsideration. This is generally a repeat of Step 1, except that a different adjudicator will review your case. Again, the decision goes back to your local office, and the decision will be mailed to you. There are 10 States that do not have a reconsideration level. In these States, if denied at Step 1, your case will skip Step 2. This level generally takes 2-3 months.
Step 3: Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
If denied at the reconsideration level, we will immediately file an appeal for a hearing. We will explain the sequential process that the Judge must use as he/she reviews your claim for a new and independent decision. We will update medical records to submit to the Judge, and will write briefs explaining why we feel that the Judge should approve your case. Our goal is for the Judge to approve your claim without having a hearing, but if we do need to go to a hearing, you will be fully prepared. Before the hearing we will meet with you and explain what to expect and we will review the questions that you may be asked. We will appear at the hearing with you, and will help the Judge understand the limitations caused by your impairments. It may take a year or longer to get a hearing date, and then it may take another month or so after the hearing to get the decision in the mail.
Step 4: Appeals Council
If you are denied at the hearing level, we will discuss whether you wish to appeal to the Appeals Council. The reviewer at the Appeals Council will be looking for technical errors made by the Administrative Law Judge. They may reverse the Judge’s decision (rare), they may remand the case for another hearing with the same Administrative Law Judge with instructions to correct the previous errors, or they may deny the request for review. If remanded, we go back to Step 3. This process may take a year or more.
Step 5: Federal Court Appeal
If denied by the Appeals Council, we will discuss with you whether you would like for us to have your claim reviewed by an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability Federal Court claims. This is another lengthy process, but during this review, you are allowed to start a new claim, and start the process over. All of your options will be discussed with you at each step along the way.