First, you want to go to your local office and apply for Social Security Disability. Of course, today you can apply online also. So you’ll have various forms you will have to fill out and submit medical records. Usually the determination takes three to five months, and they make a determination on your claim.
Now don’t be surprised if you are denied because that is a bureaucratic thing they do—everybody’s denied. In my years of practice, I’ve only met a handful of people who have got it on the first try, so don’t feel bad about that. Then you have 60 days to appeal it and request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Now, obviously, not everyone is going to win, but you are on a more level playing field. The odds are greater that you will get a successful decision. Now the bad thing is, it takes so long. Today, you can ask for a hearing and it could take 18 months. When I first started practicing, it only took five to six months. There is just so many more cases today that it takes so long.
Now during that time period that you are waiting for your hearing, you want to continue to seek treatment because you want to develop a record. If you don’t have a record, the judge is going to think, “This person must not be in that bad of shape,” so you won’t get Social Security benefits.
The judge’s office will call my office when they are ready to schedule a hearing. It could take two to three months, and I’ll have you come in and we’ll update your records and get those new records. Now assuming you get a successful decision, then, of course, your Social Security is over with. But if not, you can appeal it to the Appeals Council and then also the U.S. District Court, but at those levels there is only a one percent chance of success. So you want to make your best efforts in front of the Administrative Law Judge.