Little children wait a year for Santa to slide down the chimney. Both adult and child disability applicants usually wait much longer than that for their first checks to arrive. At the SSA Memphis Regional Office, the average wait time for an appeal hearing is eight months. The Social Security Administration published data from November 2021 showing the average time (in months) from the hearing request date until a hearing was held for cases closed in the Office of Hearings Operations’ hearing offices or national hearing centers. Times ranged from 5 to 15 months and averaged nationally between 9-10 months. Furthermore, the pre-appeal hearing delay is usually the longest one to wade through. But it’s not the only one.
The Social Security Administration is so backed up processing disability requests, and its bureaucrats are so challenged to adapt working conditions since the Covid-19 lockdowns, that many applicants wait about three months or more for an initial review. They could wait even longer than that for reconsideration, which is the next step in the process.
Waiting is a bummer. There’s no other way to put it. But slow and steady wins the race, at least in most cases. The delay gives the SSI disability lawyers in Memphis at Heermans Social Security DIsability Law Firm a chance to fine-tune your application. Additionally, a final award can be retroactive to the filing date or a maximum of 12 months prior to the filing date – depending on the type of claim. So, if you waited a year for your administrative hearing, your first check could be substantial.
Evaluating Your Claim
At Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm we understand the frustration of waiting to hear from the SSA, especially when you are disabled and need the relief of this agency to help you live your life. That is why we take a compassionate approach to our clients and provide a free Claim Evaluation. Most people are eligible for benefits if they have a qualifying condition that is disabling, and they have paid enough taxes into the system.
Let’s look at the last eligibility area first. The SSA uses a complex formula to determine the amount of work credits in a given case. Most people need forty total credits, including twenty in the last ten years, to qualify for benefits. A number of exceptions apply.
Next up is a qualifying condition. Pretty much every health condition under the sun is in the Social Security Blue Book and easily downloaded from online. If you are wondering why it is called the “blue” book, it is because back in the day SSA employees literally had a little blue book with qualifying conditions listed in it. The book would be updated annually and sent out to Social Security offices for use.
That being said, some conditions are rather vague. Post Traumatic Stress DIsorder is a good example. This brain injury could qualify as a neurological or mental disorder. Then again, a claimant might have to establish that PTSD is substantially similar to a Blue Book condition. These claims are quite complex. Typically, claims that are approved are based on the inability to work, or GRID rules and not based on meeting a listing.
Finally, the condition must be disabling. According to the SSA, a condition is disabling if:
- Your medical condition prevents you from working in your prior occupational area,
- Due to the medical condition, you cannot do any other kind of work, and
- Doctors expect the medical condition to laste at least a year, or the condition is terminal.
So, “disability” is not just a medical term. The d-word also has vocational, educational, and other meanings.
Preparation is especially important later in the process. But at this point, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. That’s especially true if these plans involve a Social Security Disability claim. At Heermans, we do everything in our power to properly position your claim for success and some of these power points are below.
Denial is very common at the initial review stage. However, denial does not have to be permanent. Here are some tips to help you be one of the lucky ones that gets through this gate.
- Submit a Complete Application: Answer all questions and fill in all blanks. If you need some help completing the application, help is available. Incomplete applications are summarily denied. Don’t make it easy for the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) officer to simply deny your claim due to being submitted incomplete.
- Be A Good Patient: Go to your scheduled appointments and keep current in your communication with your doctor. Because of a 2017 rule change, the opinion of an applicant’s doctor isn’t as compelling. However, it’s usually the single most important bit of evidence in the claim. If your doctor submits a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation form, that’s even better.
- Follow Up: Take your medicine, make necessary recommended lifestyle changes, and most importantly, don’t miss medical appointments. If you respect your doctor’s opinion, the DDS officer will probably respect it as well. As for doctors’ appointments, the more interactions you have with your physician, the more data goes into your file.
Also, bear in mind that a denial does not mean your disability claim is weak or meritless. A denial simply brings you closer to the benefits you deserve because a step in any direction with the SSA can be a step ahead.
Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is repeating the same activity and expecting a different result. So, according to Einstein, the SSD process might seem insane, but Heermans Law Firm takes the mystery out of even the most confusing SSA claim communications.
Generally, the reconsideration officer is a higher level DDS officer. That usually means another paper review. Typically, the outcome is the same as well.
But that’s not always the case. Occasionally, the first DDS officer clearly made a mistake. Other times, not all medical and other evidence was in the file during the first review. Barring such scenarios, the claim usually goes to the next stage. The good news is that, in most cases, the next level is the last level.
SSI Lawyers Near You and the ALJ Hearing
A Social Security administrative hearing is much like a trial without a jury. At a bench trial, the judge serves as both legal referee and factfinder. An Administrative Law Judge wears two hats as well.
The big difference between these two forums is that a judge is completely independent. ALJs are usually paid Social Security Administration employees. Fortunately, most ALJs are very experienced. And, their compensation is not tied to case outcomes. They get paid the same whether they allow or deny claims. Therefore, bias is normally not a problem.
As mentioned, everything up to now has been a paper review, at least for the most part. However, an administrative law hearing is basically a trial. Heermans Law Firm attorneys may challenge evidence, introduce evidence, and make legal arguments.
The SSA knows that a Heermans Law Firm attorney’s litigation skills are on full display at ALJ hearings. Therefore, the SSA’s lawyers are usually keen to settle these claims out of court. As a result, our lawyers have great negotiating skills. Our lawyers must know when to stand firm and when to compromise during negotiations. This is our good faith promise to our clients and means we strive to never delay your settlement or settle for less than your claim deserves.
If you are still waiting for your SSI/SSDI claim approval or your claim has been denied, or for more information about the disability claim process, contact the SSA lawyers at Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, serving the Memphis Metro Area, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. More value added FREE information can be found in our online articles. Call or text 24/7 at (901) 244-0057.
Please be advised that all content, including Blog articles, on the website heermansdisability.com and Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm is for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED OR SUBSTITUTED FOR LEGAL ADVICE. THE INFORMATION INCLUDED IN OR AVAILABLE THROUGH THE SITE MAY INCLUDE INACCURACIES OR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS. No guarantees are made and the use of the website, content, and any information provided is at your own risk. If you are seeking legal advice, you are strongly encouraged to consult with a competent attorney in your jurisdiction who can provide you with legal advice on your particular matter where individual state, county or city laws may apply.