Philadelphia Social Security Disability Claims Process
Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits, even for those who most deserve them, can be a long and arduous process. That’s why you need the experienced attorneys at Silver & Silver to guide you around the numerous pitfalls that can occur along the way, from the initial application through the receipt of your back due payments and continuing monthly checks.
The first step in securing Disability benefits is applying. An application can be done in person, over the phone, or online. If the severity of your disability would be apparent to a lay person, we recommend you apply in person at your local district office. If the Social Security claims representative notices any of your physical or mental limitations, he or she is required to note this in your official record. This fact could help you if your case comes before a Social Security Disability Judge. In-person applications can be taken at any Social Security district claims office within the state in which you reside. Our legal team can help you to locate the appropriate district office.
You can also call Social Security’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-772-1213 to set up your application appointment. Social Security will set up the appointment at the closest office to your home, unless you specify a preference to have your appointment at a different office. You can also call that same 800 number to set up a phone intake as well. Call us to help you decide on the best way to apply.
When you schedule an in-person or over-the-phone application appointment, Social Security will advise you of the documents you will need for the appointment.
If you wish to apply on-line, click here and follow the instructions.
Following the initial application appointment, it is likely that you will be sent forms to complete and you may also be scheduled to see one of Social Security’s doctors. It is strongly recommended that any and all forms be reviewed by our firm before being returned to Social Security. It is also advisable that you speak with us before you attend the Social Security doctor’s appointment.
From the time of the application, it is generally about 90-120 days before an initial level determination is made. In 2009, almost 65% of all initial applicants were denied benefits. If you are denied at this step, it does not mean that you do not have a viable case. Rather, if you believe that you are unable to work on a full-time basis, you should persevere with this process and file an appeal.
In Pennsylvania and nine other states, the next step would be to file a Request for a Hearing. This hearing request must be made within sixty days of the date stamped on the denial. (You are also allowed an additional five days for mailing).
In New Jersey and Delaware, as well as in most other states, an individual denied at the initial level must file for Reconsideration, also within 60 days, which is an intermediate step before one can file for a judicial hearing. Because cases are denied at a rate of 86% at the Reconsideration stage, attorneys have fought to eliminate this stage and fortunately were successful in working with the Social Security Administration to eliminate it in Pennsylvania. In fact, our senior attorney, Mike Silver, testified before the House Subcommittee for Social Security in Washington, D.C., about this very issue and encouraged legislators to eliminate this unnecessary step in the process. As a result, the Reconsideration stage was eliminated in Pennsylvania and nine other “test” states, with the remaining states’ reconsideration stages slated to be eliminated. Unfortunately, this step has yet to be eliminated in New Jersey and Delaware or in the other “non-test” states.
From the time an appeal is filed, it is common for Social Security to take over twelve months to schedule a judicial hearing in Pennsylvania, while in states like New Jersey and Delaware that have the Reconsideration step, it often takes up to twenty-four months before a claimant can testify before a judge.
At the Administrative Hearing Level, approximately 44% of cases are awarded. The award rate is dependent on the fairness of the judge assigned, in addition to good preparation and clear medical documentation. Our clients’ award rate continues to be significantly higher than the national average. While you are waiting for your court date, our office will be gathering medical evidence to help to prove your case. Once a court date is set, our team will continue to gather necessary medical evidence and prepare you for the hearing.
You only have one chance to tell the Judge why you are disabled. So, it is important to meet with our experienced legal team to review the procedures involved in the hearing and the questions that will likely be asked by the Judge, by your lawyer, and by any experts the court decides to consult. We would also encourage you to bring a witness to your preparation meeting who can testify to your limitations.
After an Administrative Law Judge hearing, it usually takes four to six weeks to receive a decision, but at times it can take even longer. If your case is successful, you will soon begin to receive your benefits. In most cases, disability awards include past benefits as well as continuing monthly payments.
If a hearing decision is unfavorable to you, there are further remedies available, including filing appeals with the Appeals Council and in Federal Court. While many of our clients win their cases earlier in the process, we do appeal worthy cases to Federal Court. Success in Federal Court results in either an outright award of benefits or a remand of the case back to the Administrative Law Judge hearing level for a new decision. If we can prove that the Social Security Administration was wrong in denying you at an earlier level, we are often successful in getting the court to order the Social Security Administration to pay the attorney fees for the work done at the Federal Court level, under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
So, while the process can at times be slow and aggravating, because we have been successfully pursuing Disability benefits for our clients for more than 40 years, we encourage those seeking these benefits to contact us as early in the process as possible. We want to obtain the necessary information, lead you down the right path, and hopefully avoid any unnecessary mistakes, delays or confusion. Good luck is helpful, but good preparation is absolutely necessary.
Located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, the Disability lawyers at Silver & Silver serve clients throughout the Philadelphia region, including Delaware County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Berks County and Bucks County, as well as Southern New Jersey and Delaware. Call us today at 610-658-0500 or contact us online for more information on how we can help you claim the benefits you deserve.