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How It Works

If you have decided that you need disability benefits because you are unable to work full-time due to illness or injury, your first step is to apply for benefits by contacting the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration's contact details are:  or 800-772-1213.

General Overview of the Process

When you first call or email us, tell us where you are in the process

If you have not yet applied for benefits, give us a call. We can answer general questions to help get you started in this lengthy process.

If you have already received a denial letter, have it ready when you call us. We will need to know important details from the letter. If you have received a denial or unfavorable decision, do not delay. Your time to appeal is limited.

After you first contact us, we will send you an intake questionnaire to complete and return to us. The questionnaire is our first step in deciding whether or not to accept a case. We evaluate every response.

Documents from you that we will find helpful

It's useful to us, right from the start, if you can get as much of the documentation below as you have on hand.

  • Contact information of your primary care physician, psychologist, specialist, and/or emergency department

  • Denial letter from Social Security

  • Prior unfavorable decision(s) from an administrative law judge

  • Pay stubs from your most recent employer

  • Pharmacy records

  • Long Term Disability (LTD) decision

  • Workers Compensation settlement

What evidence you must have to proceed

  • Courts require evidence and Social Security's judges are no different. Documentation of your earnings and impairments isn't just crucial: it's mandatory.

  • If you aren't currently seeing a professional to address your physical and/or mental conditions, you need to start immediately. You need to communicate your symptoms fully and honestly, which can be difficult, but your disability claim has a much better chance of success if you do. This includes telling your doctor if a certain treatment isn’t helping or if it’s making something worse.

  • Objective findings, such as X-ray or MRI or CT scan, NCV/EMG testing, along with clinical diagnoses, are the clearest way to show how serious your condition is.

Can I appeal if my claim is denied?

Yes - but only if your claim is appealed on time (or if you can show "good cause" for why it was not appealed on time).


There are many levels of appeal for Social Security disability.

  • If you have received an initial denial, you may be able to ask Social Security for a reconsideration of that decision.

  • If your claim is denied at the reconsideration level, you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

  • If the judge denies your claim, you can appeal the judge's decision to the Appeals Council, which is part of Social Security.

  • If the Appeals Council agrees with the judge, you can appeal to U.S. District Court.

What We Must Prove

  • That you are eligible for the type of disability benefits you are seeking.

  • Your earnings, if any, after the date on which your disability began, fall below what Social Security calls "Substantial Gainful Activity".

  • Your medical condition must be severe, that is, it significantly impairs your ability to do certain work-related activities, and is expected to last for 12 months or result in death.

  • Based on your limitations, you are unable to perform your past relevant work or in fact any other work.

Be sure to mention any special circumstances

When you call us, be sure to mention if any of the following applies to you (or the claimant you're calling for):

  • Over 50 years old

  • Under 18 years old

  • Disabled Veteran

  • Receiving Social Security Retirement

  • Receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits

  • State/Local Government Employee or Retiree

  • Widowed Spouse

  • Hospitalized overnight (for either physical or psychiatric reasons)

  • Injured in a car accident or on the job

How long the process usually takes

The process is long and can be frustrating. Only 50% of all claims are successful, and the statistics are worse for those without representation.

  • After you apply, it may take some months for an initial determination.

  • If you have asked Social Security for a Reconsideration after an initial denial, you may have to wait many more months or years.

  • If you request a hearing, it may take over a year from the date you first applied before you can have a hearing before a judge.

  • If you have an unfavorable decision from a judge and then appeal to the Appeals Council, that step may take more than a year.

  • If you lose at the Appeals Council and then appeal to U.S. District Court, it could be another year or more.

Does it matter that the VA said I'm disabled?

  • It is important to note that the Social Security Administration is its own federal agency – and as such, it does not have to agree with Veterans Affairs on any disability findings.

  • Evidence from your VA records, such a disability rating report, can still be helpful. So be sure to tell us if you have such a report.

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