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Understanding the Social Security disability application process

Being unable to work because of a disability can be difficult to accept and a can be a challenging period in a disabled individual's life. While Social Security disability benefits can be helpful, the application process may seem complex. Disabled individuals should not, however, be intimidated by the SSD application process and should understand that being familiar with the process can be helpful.

The majority of initial claims for disability are denied but there is a multi-layered appeals process. Certain information is required as part of the initial application for SSD benefits. Medical records and a diagnosis from a doctor are required, as well as verification of the disabled individual's inability to work. Depending on the circumstances, additional documents and information may be needed including a birth certificate or proof of birth; W-2 forms or self-employment tax forms; naturalization papers; or military discharge papers.

Even if the applicant's impairment is on the Social Security Administration's list of disabilities, an application for disability benefits may still be denied. Among initial applications, 70 percent are denied. If the application is denied, the SSA provides an extensive appeals process. The first level of appeal is a reconsideration request, which the applicant has 60 days to request. The reconsideration entails a review of the applicant's entire claim by a reviewer other than the initial reviewer. The next step in the appeals process is a hearing before an administrative law judge followed by an appeal to the Appeals Council, which can be made in writing within 60 days of the denial by the administrative law judge.

Because the process of applying for Social Security disability can be long and complicated, it is important to be familiar with how to qualify and what the process entails. It can also be helpful to have trained guidance along the way.

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