The SSD Application and Appeals Process
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be difficult. You have to make sure your application is complete and accurate. Because two-thirds of disability claims are initially rejected, you will need patience as well. However, with persistence and the right legal help, your claim could be among the many that are ultimately approved on appeal in South Carolina.
To help you understand the challenge that lies ahead, the lawyers of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., present the following information about the SSD application and appeals process:
If you cannot work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or to result in death, you should apply for monthly SSD benefits as soon as possible. It can take several months to process the application. The longer you wait to apply, the longer you will go without benefits that you and your family need.
When you apply, you will basically need to submit two forms:
- Application, and
- Adult Disability Report.
You can submit these by using the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, filing your claim by phone or going to one of the SSA field offices located in upstate South Carolina. The nearest SSA field offices are based in Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg.
The SSA field office will check the non-medical requirements in your application, including:
- Marital status
- Social Security coverage
A state agency, Disability Determination Services (DDS) of the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department, will determine if you meet the medical requirements. The nearest DDS office is based in Greenville.
A DDS claims examiner will consult with a medical professional and review your application and your medical and employment records. You could be asked to undergo a medical exam. After making its determination, the DDS will send your file back to the SSA field office.
If the SSA approves your claim, you will receive a letter that tells you the amount of monthly disability benefits you will receive and the date they go into effect.
If your claim is rejected, you will receive a letter as well. You have the right to appeal this denial. You also have the right to be represented by a lawyer as you continue to seek benefits.
If you choose to appeal, Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., believes it’s crucial for you to get legal help from an attorney. You will want to work with a lawyer who has experience with navigating claims through the SSD appeals process and dealing with claims examiners, physicians, administrative law judges and others in the upstate South Carolina region.
As you appeal any decisions made in your case, keep in mind: You will always have 60 days from the date of your last denial to file your written request for review or reconsideration. You also are allotted five days for mailing time.
Your case could end up going through four levels of review:
- Reconsideration – If you file a request for reconsideration, your application will be reviewed by a different DDS claims examiner and medical consultant. You can present new medical evidence for their consideration.
- Hearing – If your application is denied at the reconsideration stage, you can seek a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). If you filed your SSD claim through the Anderson, Greenville or Spartanburg offices in South Carolina, your hearing would be at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Greenville. Some hearings are held by videoconferencing. You must attend. The ALJ will make a decision based on evidence in your file, including new evidence you can present. The judge may also rely on medical and vocational experts. The judge can question you and the witnesses you bring to the hearing.
- Appeals Council – If you want to appeal the ALJ’s decision, you will need to send a written request for review to the Social Security Appeals Council in Falls Church, Virginia. The Council will review your case file and any new evidence you present. The Council can deny your request for review, return it to the ALJ for correction of an error or issue a new decision that grants your application for SSD benefits.
- Federal District Court – If the Appeals Council denies your request for review or issues a decision that you disagree with, you can take your case to the nearest federal district court. Here, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina features courthouses in Greenville, Spartanburg and other areas of the state. You will file a civil complaint with the court and serve a copy of the complaint on the SSA. Generally, your case will be decided on written arguments, or briefs, although your case may be called in for arguments before a U.S. District Court Judge. The court will find an error that requires sending your case back to the ALJ, affirm the ALJ’s decision, or reverse it, awarding you benefits. Although this rarely occurs, you could also appeal the federal district court’s decision to the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court.
Talk with a South Carolina Lawyer about the SSD Application and Appeals Process
As you can see, there may be many steps involved in your pursuit of disability benefits in South Carolina. With the stakes so high for you and your family, it’s best to allow a skilled, experienced lawyer to handle your case and carefully guide it through the SSD claims process.
If your SSD application was denied in upstate South Carolina, contact Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C. We are passionate about helping individuals seek disability benefits. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. You will only pay us if your claim is approved.
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