Practice Areas James A. McKown Jr.

A recent series/expose by National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Chana Joffe-Walt has reignited the ongoing, contentious discussion about what role Social Security Disability (SSD) and other social welfare or disability benefit programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have in American society today. Specifically, the piece focuses on the debate between two polarizing segments:

  • Those who feel that disability payments should only be given after strenuous qualification criteria and only to the truly deserving, but even then for a short time, as a rehabilitative gap-filler
  • Those who feel that the process of applying and qualifying for an award of benefits is already tedious enough, and any changes made to the process would simply hurt those who most need the assistance

The aftermath

Will Joffe-Walt's report have an impact on the way that disability benefits are perceived and awarded in America? Only time will tell. In the meantime, though, if you or a loved one needs help with an initial benefits application - or with the appeal of a benefit denial - consult an experienced SSD/SSI attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.

What is the current process?

The process of qualifying for SSD or SSI is a lengthy one that is full of red tape and proverbial hoops to jump through. It takes a minimum of five months of not working due to a disability before any application will be considered, but most people wait about a year to get an answer. In addition to the numerous forms to fill out and applications to sign, an applicant must also provide medical evidence documenting the disability and its effect on the his or her ability to make a living.

Even after all that time, even once all the "I"s are dotted and all the "T"s crossed, the Social Security Administration still denies upwards of 60 percent of new applications annually.

Putting your best foot forward

Many applicants find out that their benefit application has been denied on a technicality like an unsigned form or insufficient medical documentation proving the disability. This is where the help of an experienced social security disability attorney could have made a huge difference. Having someone intimately familiar with the process guide you through it can definitely increase your chances of success by ensuring that everything is done "by the book." Of course, having the help of an attorney doesn't guarantee that benefits will be awarded, but it can make the process less stressful.

An attorney can also be greatly beneficial at the appeals stage. A skilled lawyer has the knowledge and experience to craft a convincing appeal that best presents your case and why you are deserving of an award of SSD or SSI benefits.