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Applying for Social Security: Five Steps

Social Security Disability benefits serve millions of Americans who, because of debilitating conditions, cannot hold regular employment. In many of these cases, not only do these benefits help support the individual, but also allow them the degree of autonomy that most working Americans have in everyday life.

While these are certainly wonderful things, the process of applying for Social Security Disability is a multi-step process that can be confusing and discouraging. At Disability Action Advocates (DAA), we don't think this should be the case. We believe all applicants should have a clear understanding of these procedures to help ensure they stand the best chance of getting the benefits they deserve.

Submitting & Appealing Your Claim

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a number of measures in place not only to scrutinize all the claims that come through their doors, but to make sure that applicants have options to pursue if their claim is denied.

Steps in the application and appeals process include:

  • The initial application: An applicant submits all their personal information and relevant medical records in hopes of an approval and disability benefits. If they are denied they can file for reconsideration.
  • Reconsideration: This is the first appeal. The applicant has a chance to amend and update their claim before refiling with the SSA office for reconsideration.
  • Hearing: If reconsideration still results in a rejection, the applicant can file for a hearing. They can then present their case, and witnesses, to a judge who will decide the validity of the claim.
  • Appeals council: If the applicant finds the judge's ruling insufficient, they can then file for an appeals council. The council will review the hearing to see if an error was made on the judge's part.
  • Federal Court: When the council also denies benefits, the last option for the applicant is to submit the case to Federal District Court for a final presentation of the claim and a ruling.

Many of these steps are very involved and time-consuming, and have their own individual procedures and time limitations. For example, each appeals filing must be made with 60 days of the most recent rejection notice, and scheduling a hearing usually takes over a year with the SSA. Patience, vigilance, and—most importantly—knowledgeable counsel are critical to weathering this process to a successful verdict.

Do I need legal representation?

For a few of these steps—especially the initial application—legal counsel isn't always needed; but in the case of appeals, things become more complicated. Once the appeal process begins, an applicant will want to maximize their chances of favorable outcome to avoid further—and lengthier—appeal steps. The best way to do this is to retain timely and competent legal counsel.

At Disability Action Advocates, we know the kind of frustration and exhaustion this application process can turn into. That's why we've been committed to fighting alongside applicants in the appeals stages, making sure their interests are protected and their voices are heard.

If you or a loved one needs information on filing a Social Security Disability benefits claim or is ready to begin the appeals process, contact a proven Las Vegas Social Security Disability representative at our office today.