Your medical condition makes it impossible for you to work any longer. Our country makes allowances for that through the social security disability program. Funded by payroll taxes, the Social Security Administration will, under certain circumstances, pay approximately ⅔ of a person's income if a person can prove inability to work. However, disability awards are extremely difficult to win. You may be encouraged to know that a recent analysis of the SSD program resulted in recommendations that more applicants undergo psychological testing. If you are either considering a disability claim, or have been rejected for a claim, you may want to retain an attorney who will arrange psychological testing for you.
Today's disability claims process: very slow and lots of "no"s
The disability claims process is formidable, which can be exasperating if you are ill or injured and no longer able to work. Here is the general progression of a typical case.
Initial application. The first step is to fill out the Social Security Disability application and file it. It will go to Disability Determination Services for consideration. Most likely, your claim will be denied; 60-70% of initial applications are rejected.
Reconsideration. You can re-file your application within 60 days of your rejection, and it will be considered by a different claims examiner. Unfortunately, the rejection rate at this stage of the process is even higher: 85-87% of claims in reconsideration are denied.
Appeal. You have another 60 days to file an appeal of your case. An Administrative Law Judge will review the evidence and make a decision as to whether your circumstances merit disability payments. However, it may take a year to get your hearing scheduled.
Appeals Council. If your case is rejected by the Administrative Judge, you can appeal to the Appeals Council.
Federal court. If your case is denied by the Appeals Council, your last recourse is to file a petition with the federal court.
The discouraging trend in the number of social security disability approvals is downward. While there has been a 28% increase in the number of applications over the past ten years, the number of cases awarded payments in 2013 declined 9.7% from the previous year.
Hiring an attorney is critical
As you can see, it is extremely difficult to obtain a disability award for your injuries. Because of this, hiring an attorney is your best move. An attorney will not require any payment from you unless you receive an award; further, federal law limits attorney fees to a maximum of 25% of your back payments up to $6,000. If you can get your case approved on initial application with the assistance of a lawyer, you won't owe as much in legal fees as you will if you postpone representation till further down the line.
Why you want psychological testing
A key reason to retain legal counsel is that your lawyer can arrange psychological testing for you, which could provide you with a real advantage. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine urges the Social Security Administration to incorporate psychological testing more uniformly into the application process. This would, presumably, reveal which applicants are not honest about their claims and which ones have a legitimate need for disability payments.
The IOM recommends that non-cognitive psych testing (namely, those tests that provide information about someone's personality, values, and attitudes) be implemented under these conditions:
the claimant alleges a mental condition that does not include cognitive impairment (such as depression or anxiety)
the claimant alleges a physical condition causing symptoms out of proportion to medical findings (for instance, fibromyalgia)
the claimant's condition is based mostly on self-report rather than objective medical findings
Further, the IOM recommends cognitive testing (which measures impairment in thinking, perception, impulsivity, and decision-making) for applicants who are alleging cognitive impairment that is not borne out by the medical record.
Your attorney can arrange for you to undergo testing and add the results to your application. This may just be the key that gains you approval of your case, especially since it is a trending area of development for the SSA.
No matter where you are in the disability claims process, you should hire a lawyer who specializes in disability cases. The initial consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose. Discover more here or make an appointment today.