When should you file for Disability Benefits
There are a couple of very simple answers to the question of when to file for disability benefits. One is that you should file as soon as possible because the social security disability and ssi disability evaluation process is very long.
At the initial claim level (this is the application, where all claims start), a case can easily take several months. Social security personnel generally inform an applicant to expect at least 3-4 months to receive a decision; however, disability cases can take even longer to process than this.
If a claim is denied, of course, a first appeal should be filed (known as a review or reconsideration) immediately with no delay. First appeals can take just as long to process as disability applications.
The second appeal (a disability hearing before an administrative law judge) is by far the lengthiest step in the entire process: from the time a hearing has been requested until the time a hearing date has been set, another 1-2 years may have gone by (nationally, the social security system is backlogged at hearing offices and how long it will take to get a hearing will depend on how bad the backlogs are in your particular area).
Time is, without a doubt, a factor in the SSA (social security administration) system. And it does not work to the benefit of claimants. For this reason, an individual who has become disabled as the result of a physical or mental impairment should intiate a claim immediately by contacting a local social security office (try to avoid the national toll-free number as claimants often report receiving inaccurate filing information from the personnel who answer these phones -- they are not SSA field office claims reps and know very little about case processing; consequently, they often give out wrong information).
However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you intend to apply for social security disability or SSI benefits.
1. You should not attempt to file for disability if you are working full-time or working a significant number of hours. If you are working fulltime, an application may be taken but you will be given a very fast "technical denial" since you will not be eligible for benefits. If you are working significant part-time hours, you may also be over the limit for gross monthly earned income.
2. If you have difficulty getting to the social security office due to transportation or health problems, keep in mind that you have the option of doing a telephone interview with a social security field office claims rep. At the conclusion of the interview, the claims rep will simply mail you your paperwork so you may sign and return it.
3. You have the option of filing for disability benefits online -- but if you choose this option you won't have the benefit of speaking directly to a social security claims rep while your application is being initiated (you may have some important questions to ask at that time).
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