Filing for your Social Security Disability Insurance can be confusing and overwhelming. There’s a lot at stake in the filing process, and you’ll want to make sure that you’ve completed each task. This step-by-step guide can help you navigate the process of filing your SSDI claim.

The Social Security Law Center can help you at any point in this process. We recommend contacting our team before you file your initial claim, but we can help you at any of the following steps. A comprehensive and well-organized claim can help you get approved more quickly and having legal counsel from the outset can make this process easier for both you and your attorney.

How to File for SSDI

Filing includes four major steps:

  • Initial Application
  • Request for Reconsideration
  • Administrative Law Judge Hearing
  • Appeals Council

This process is not a straight line, however, and depending on what difficulties you face, you may have to repeat a step or start over. Our attorneys are ready to help you at any and all of these stages.

Step One: Initial Application

Your initial application is how the government determines if you are eligible for SSDI. You can file your initial application online at the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, over the phone, or in person at your local SSA Office. In your initial application, you will be asked many questions about yourself, your family, and your disability. You may need to supply tax information, employment documents, and identifying records.

In many ways your initial application begins long before you submit your files. You will need to have evidence on hand to present your case for SSDI eligibility, and you will want to be organized and knowledgeable about your own case. You may need to send an Adult Disability Report to the SSA office before filing your claim.

After all of this work, your claim will most likely be denied. Less than 40% of claims are approved at this stage, and you will need to choose your next step.

  • File a new initial claim: if your initial claim was rejected because it was filed incorrectly or because you did not have adequate documentation, you can file a new initial claim with a stronger case and more details. If you did not already have legal representation, this is the ideal time to contact the Social Security Law Center. Our team can help you reorganize and strengthen your claim so that you are ready for the next steps.
  • File a Request for Reconsideration: This is the most common next step. Many initial claims are denied for what may seem to be no reason. If your claim is strong and accurate, we can help you file a Request for Reconsideration.
  • Do nothing: You may realize that you are filing for the incorrect form of supplemental income or that you are not eligible. You can still reach out to our firm to see what programs you may be eligible for.

Step Two: Request for Reconsideration

After your initial claim is denied, you have 60 days to file your reconsideration request. After 60 days, you will need to file a new initial claim. The SSA will review your case and decide if you are eligible for benefits. If your claim is approved, you will start receiving benefits. If you are denied, you have three options:

  • File a new initial claim: If you have noticed an error with your claim, or if you are not prepared to go to a hearing, you may wish to file a new initial claim. If there has been a substantial change in your situation, a new claim may change your eligibility.
  • File a request for hearing: This is the most common next step. Your attorney will help you prepare to go before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
  • Do nothing

If your reconsideration request is unsuccessful, don’t give up. 85% of cases are denied at this level.

Step Three: Social Security Disability Hearing

Your Social Security Disability (SSD) hearing is the most critical step in the process. It is at this point that you are statistically the most likely to receive SSDI benefits. Roughly 50% of cases receive benefits during the hearing process. If the judge rules against you, however, your chances of receiving benefits at a later point in the process are low.

SSD hearings are very different from court trials. At your hearing, you will sit in a small conference room, and the ALJ will ask you questions about your situation. It is important that you be honest and thorough in your answers. The judge is not working against you and wants to be fair to all citizens. Their standards are high. After they ask you questions, your attorney will have the opportunity to present your case and speak on your behalf. You may need to bring in expert witnesses, like your doctor or your job placement counselor to speak on your behalf.

After the hearing, you may need to wait a number of weeks before you receive a decision. The judge might tell you what they plan to decide before you leave, but this is not binding, and the ALJ still needs to complete a formal decision.

If your claim is denied at this step, you may file one more appeal within the SSA process.

Step Four: Appealing a Decision

In your appeal, you will go before an Appeals Council. The Council doesn’t decide whether to approve your claim. Their job is to decide whether the ALJ who saw your case reviewed it correctly. If you were denied the chance to bring in expert witnesses, or the judge didn’t permit your attorney to speak, or if the judge didn’t properly review your case, the Appeals Council can remand your case, and you will have another SSD hearing.

If the council denies your appeal, your final option is to file an appeal with the Federal District Court. Be aware, this level of appeal may be expensive and highly stressful. An attorney at this stage is critical, as much of this type of case will require in-depth legal knowledge and filing arguments known as briefs.

The Social Security Law Center is one of the only firms that will stick with you through the appeals process.  Our team knows that you need qualified, personal help throughout the process. We won’t hand you off to another firm or leave you to fight your appeal alone.

Unfortunately, an appeal can take a long time. Sometimes cases remain at this point for over a year. If your appeal is denied, or if your new hearing is unsuccessful, you will need to file a new initial claim and prepare to start the process over.

Our Firm Can Help

If you need to file for SSDI or SSI, getting the help of an experienced attorney can make the difference between months, or even years, of waiting. If you have been denied, our team can help you strengthen your case and try again. Many claimants are approved even after being denied in previous claims.

Call our firm today and schedule a free consultation. We have locations in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Bartlesville. Our team is always ready to help you get the benefits you need.