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Far from welfare, SSD and SSI are time-consuming and hard to get

Social Security disability attorneys hear questions every day about whether Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are really just alternatives to welfare. Often, this is because the number of Social Security disability beneficiaries has been sharply rising over the past decade or so, and alarmist coverage from the media has implied this is because it’s easy to get SSD benefits even if you’re not really disabled.

It’s not. The truth is, the majority of applications for SSD benefits are denied, at least initially -- about two-thirds, in fact. After the applicant is notified of the denial, there are a number of steps that can be taken on appeal, but all of that takes time and effort, and it’s very hard to do without an attorney’s help.

This point was made recently by a Pennsylvania SSD lawyer writing for the Philadelphia Public Record, who covers the public policy of Social Security disability for that paper. More important than the complex process and the immense delays, of course, is that applicants for these benefits must prove they are disabled from work by submitting a substantial amount of information. Many are also required to go through an examination by a doctor or psychologist hired by the Social Security Administration.

For example, every SSD applicant is required to submit medical records that demonstrate the diagnosis and the extent of the disabilities. In addition, details about the applicant’s daily routine, work history, medical treatment and limitations. These records are then reviewed by medical consultants to determine if the applicant’s condition even qualifies for possible benefits and to assess the applicant’s abilities and limitations.

The difficulty of submitting all of the needed information in the proper format is one of the main reasons the majority of SSD benefits are denied. Often, a reconsideration request that submits any information previously missed is successful.

Each appeal of a denied claim can take as long as a year to schedule, and there are a number of levels of appeal. Many applicants’ benefits are offset by workers’ compensation or other programs, and that determination can cause additional delays. All that time, the applicant is not receiving any benefits, although legitimate back-payments are eventually made.

Finally, keep in mind that the law requires even applicants who are approved right away to wait five months before any benefits begin. Now, you begin to get an idea of just how challenging it can be to get SSD and SSI benefits, and how unlike welfare the programs are.

Source: The Philadelphia Public Record, “UNDERSTANDING Social Security: It’s A Long, Long Wait To Get SSI, SSD,” Michael P. Boyle, Esq., Aug. 1, 2013

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