When you apply for Social Security Disability, you may have to go through several levels in order to get benefits: initial, reconsideration and request for hearing. The Initial level (as it is named) is when you initially apply for benefits. You apply online or at the local Social Security office. Your case is sent to DDS (Disability Determination Services) in Raleigh, NC.
An examiner is assigned to your case, requests medical records and sends you a plethora of forms to complete about yourself. You may also be sent to a SSA doctor for them to examine you (this is called a consultative examination). The initial level usually takes 3-6 months.
If you are denied at the initial level, you will have to request the reconsideration. The Reconsideration is identical to the initial level except that a different person at DDS reviews your case. The reconsideration usually takes 3-6 months. More information here.
If you are denied at the reconsideration level, you will have to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The hearing before the ALJ is where you have your best chance of being approved. You will meet the ALJ at the hearing and they will review your medical records, unlike at DDS where the person making the decision never meets you.
If you have to go all the way to hearing, the process could take 1 1/2 – 2 years. During this time, you should get as much medical treatment as possible and comply with your doctor’s advice. If you can not afford to go to the doctor, apply for Medicaid for the Disabled at your local Social Services. You should also seek low-cost medical care in your community if it is available.
The Bishop Law Firm can help clients at the SSA initial, reconsideration and request for hearing level (and beyond). We would be delighted to discuss your case with you.