Social Security Disability Process

The Skinner and Associates Way

At our initial consultation meeting for Social Security disability, we will determine if you have a chance of meeting Social Security’s disability standards. If you do, we will begin the claims process for you.  If we do not feel that you meet Social Security’s disability standards, we will tell you!   Social Security’s disability standards are difficult to meet: At a minimum your disability must prevent you from performing any work on a full-time basis in the national economy and must be expected to last at least 12 months.

Should we mutually agree that Skinner and  Associates will represent you during our initial meeting, we will thoroughly discuss the Social Security disability process. We will talk to you about your individual disabilities, how your disabilities affect your life; and, specifically, how your disabilities prevent you from working.  We will also discuss your work and education history.  We then submit all required documents to the Social Security Administration in person, as large government agencies have to deal with mass volumes of paperwork.  By submitting documentation in person, we are able to get date stamped copies from SSA for our files in case of an accidental lose of documentation by the agency .

There are several sequential steps to a disability claim. Each step must be filed individually. The first step is an initial claim. The initial claim consists of an interview with us and completion of the necessary forms, both for Social Security Disability and for our representation. The forms are all submitted to the local District Office where they are processed and sent to a Disability Determination Services Office (DDS). The DDS Office will send a letter to you and to us, confirming that they have received your claim. Approximately six weeks later you will receive forms based on your disability and work history that must be completed and returned. DDS will gather your medical records and likely have you see one of their doctors. The initial claims process currently takes about six months to complete and receive a decision.

If you are denied on your initial claim, we can start the second step which is called a reconsideration. The reconsideration is essentially an update and second look of your initial claim. DDS will assign a different evaluator to review your claim and any new conditions for your reconsideration; including any new medical evidence that may affect your claim. During the reconsideration process we complete the forms for you; however, we may need to speak with you on the phone to ensure that we have your most current information. We will submit all documentation to the local field office.  The reconsideration process currently takes about six months to complete and receive a decision.

Should you be denied at the reconsideration stage, we can file a request for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. Although it is currently taking 12 months for a hearing to be scheduled, It is this level that provides your best chance of an approval. The Administrative Law Judges independently review your social security and DDS records, our legal arguments of how your disabilities meet the rulings and regulations, as well as our summary of your medical evidence. The Administrative Law Judge can then form an independent opinion of your disability and determines if it meets Social Security’s definition of disability. Once your hearing is held it can take up 3 – 6 months to receive a written decision.

Social Security hearings are private. The hearings have only an Administrative Assistant, the Administrative Law Judge, our representative, and you in attendance at the time of the hearing. If
necessary during your hearing, there may also be a medical expert and/or a vocational expert that will weigh in with their opinion of your disability and whether or not they believe you are employable. We will provide legal and medical arguments in person and in a written brief that will provide the judge with our opinion as to which rulings you meet. We will also provide arguments against the opinion of the medical expert or vocational expert during the hearing if necessary. Prior to your hearing, we will completely brief you as to what to expect, the judges temperaments, and the questions that may be asked during your hearing. We will also inform you which disabilities we believe are severe and which disabilities do not meet Social Security requirements. In all cases you will be well prepared.

If you are denied at the hearings level, we can file an Appeals Council request for review of the Administrative Law Judge’s opinion. The Appeals Council review is a review of the legal issues of the case and the procedural correctness of the judge’s decision. This process can take up to 12 months or longer.

If you are denied by the Appeals Council, we can send your case to an attorney who specializes in federal case reviews of Social Security denials. During the Federal Court Appeal you are also able to file a new initial claim and start the process again.

Please Note: We no longer accept claims for over payments; nor will we accept new clients who already have representation, unless the former representative withdraws and waives his/her right to charge and collect a fee IN WRITING.