To receive disability benefits, an individual must first file an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). An SSA field officer determines whether the individual meets the non-disability criteria for benefits. If so, the field office forwards the claim to the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) for a disability review. Once DDS makes a determination, it sends the claim back to an SSA field office for final processing.
Even though Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal programs, a state agency actually decides whether an applicant is disabled for purposes of collecting these benefits. In Georgia, the state agency is called Disability Adjudication Services (DAS). The Georgia DAS approves just over 29% of claims at the initial level. That means that over 70% of claims filed at the initial level are denied.
If an applicant disagrees with an initial disability determination, he or she can file an appeal within 60 days. If an appeal of a denial is filed, the claim then goes to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) which is part of the Social Security Administration. In Georgia, it takes an average 365 from date of application until an administrative law judge (ALJ) rules on your application. In 2011, over fifty percent of the ALJ’s decisions were fully favorable.
In 2008, the Social Security Administration (SSA) did a study on the hardships claimants face while waiting on benefits. The study showed that some beneficiaries had no income or insufficient income to meet food, clothing or shelter needs due to the waiting period.
In this study, 231 out of 340 cases reviewed, beneficiaries had to obtain assistance from friends, family and/or charities while waiting for benefits. Some accrued debt, used up savings, continued to work, and sold personal belongings. For some beneficiaries, they could no longer afford a home, became homeless, filed for bankruptcy, and/or had their utilities cut off.
For those who qualify for and have applied for SSI benefits, they may qualify for interim assistance from the Georgia Department of Human Services Individuals will be approved for interim assistance only if there is a strong likelihood that their SSI benefit will be approved. Also, the receipt of interim assistance also comes with a promise to repay the state with the back pay benefits awarded under SSI
If you have an advocate for your social security disability claim, your attorney can direct you to public assistance programs that may help in this interim period. Also, an attorney can write a “dire need” letter on your behalf to Social Security. Contact our office at 404 255 9838 for a free Social Security Disability consultation.