If you are disabled with a serious health condition, unable to work for at least 12 continuous months, insured for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and not currently working, you may qualify for SSDI benefits.

The first step when filing an SSDI claim is to review the requirements. If you do not meet the requirements listed above, then there is no reason to file a claim. You will be automatically denied for benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you do qualify for benefits, you can either file the claim on your own by contacting the SSA at www.ssa.gov, or by contacting a disability lawyer.

SSDI cases can be filed online by visiting the SSA website and clicking on the "Apply for Disability" box. On the next screen, click on the "Apply for Disability" button. This will take you to a page where you can start a new application for disability benefits.

Disability questions can be answered by contacting the SSA office. After the SSDI application is submitted, an SSA representative will contact you if they have any questions about your disability application or need more information from you.

It could take up to 90 days to process your SSDI application. The SSA will be responsible for gathering all medical evidence from treating physicians. To expedite your claim, it is important to provide accurate information about your condition and how to contact each of your doctors.

Do I need to hire a disability lawyer?

You do not need a disability lawyer to file your disability claim. In fact, many disability lawyers will not help with the disability application process. Unfortunately, however, up to 70% of disability applications are denied at the application level. Some claims will never be approved, but a number of them are valid claims that can be challenged by filing an appeal.

The SSA will notify you by mail if your claim has been denied. The denial notice should outline why your claim was denied and how you can appeal. The appeal must be made within 60 days from the date of the denial letter. If you wish to appeal your SSDI denial, you should contact a disability lawyer immediately.

Disability lawyers can review your denial and file a reconsideration, which is the first step in the appeals process in most states. Up to 80% of reconsiderations are denied.

Reconsideration denials can be challenged by filing a second appeal and requesting an administrative hearing. If you have not hired a lawyer prior to requesting a disability hearing, you will want to contact one immediately.

What can a lawyer do for me?

Many disability applicants will not need legal help and can win their case on their own. Other claimants, who are not approved for SSDI benefits immediately and have to appeal their case, may find that a lawyer is critical to winning benefits. Lawyers can perform the following tasks:

  • Conduct an initial interview and determine if they can help win your case.
  • Review your denial letter and gather evidence to counter reasons for the denial.
  • Submit additional medical records to the SSA to win your case.
  • Determine if you need to undergo additional medical testing.
  • Gather supportive statements from treating doctors to provide evidence of your functional limitations to work.
  • Determine how to counter negative evidence that can jeopardize your case.
  • Prepare evidence for the hearing, which will prove that your condition meets a disability listing or that you cannot do work like you did in the past; that your limitations prevent you from working; and that your exertion level is less than sedentary.
  • Prepare you for your hearing by reviewing common questions asked by the administrative judge.
  • Determine if witness testimony will help or hurt your case.
  • Develop evidence to counter medical and job expert testimony at the hearing.

Finding a Disability Lawyer

Disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis and will only take on your case if they believe that they can win. If they win your case, they are paid a percentage of your back pay up to a predetermined limit.

There are several ways to locate a disability lawyer. First, talk to friends and family. Next, there are a variety of websites that can help you find one. Disability lawyers work on cases throughout the United States and will fly to court hearings. Most of the work will be done via phone and email, so you do not have to hire a lawyer located near you.

Get several recommendations and contact each lawyer’s office. Talk to several lawyers to determine if they are willing and able to help you with your case. If one or two lawyers refuse to help, contact a few more. Lawyers have varying caseloads and different strategies for taking on cases. Just because one or two lawyers refuse to help you does not mean that you do not have a valid case.