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How Does SSDI Work?

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits make life much easier.

If you have a permanent disability and a sufficient amount of work credits, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. In 2023. The average monthly cash benefit was $1,500. Most people cannot live on $1,500 a month. But most people can live on a combination of their disability benefits and income from a part-time job, especially since SSDI benefits usually include Medicaid eligibility.

Generally, applicants must also have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI payments. Basically, in most cases, you must pay into the system before you can get anything out of it.

As outlined below, the SSDI process is long and often frustrating. Furthermore, at least in some Social Security Administration offices, there’s a presumption that the applicant is not entitled to benefits. Only a solid Tampa Social Security Disability lawyer levels the playing field and effectively helps applicants get the disability benefits they need and deserve.

Initial DDS Review

When applicants request disability benefits, two things usually happen. The SSA schedules a medical examination and a Disability Determination Services review.

The doctor examines the patient and determines the cause of the disability and whether the condition is truly “disabling” under the SSA’s rules. Sometimes, these doctors have little expertise in a particular area. For example, if Janet has a severe brain injury, like PTSD, she might see a doctor who focuses on musculoskeletal conditions.

For this reason, a Tampa Social Security Disability lawyer often schedules a meeting with an independent doctor later in the process. More on that below.

At the DDS “hearing,” which is basically a paper review of the medical records, the officer determines if the applicant is entitled to benefits. DDS officers almost always deny applications, at least in part.

Subsequent DDS Review

Usually, a senior DDS officer reviews denied applications before the office forwards them to the next stage. The senior DDS officer always upholds the initial ruling, except in extreme cases.

ALJ Appeal

To prepare a case for an administrative law judge appeal hearing, an attorney normally partners with an independent doctor and a vocational expert.

We mentioned independent medical reviews above. Frequently, Social Security doctors are almost like company doctors. They work for the SSA, not the applicant. Most can look past this bias. Some cannot.

Independent medical reviews are especially helpful if the applicant has an unlisted condition. Benefits are still available in these cases, but the rules aren’t as straightforward. So, doctors might miss critical details.

A “disability” is not just a medical term. Doctors never tell patients they have disabilities. Instead, a disability is a medical condition that's so bad it precludes full-time employment. A medical opinion establishes part one. Usually, a vocational expert must establish part two. These professionals gauge the applicant’s ability to find a job in the current market, given that person’s medical condition and other factors.

The ALJ hearing itself is basically a private trial. An ALJ listens to the evidence and legal arguments and then decides the matter. Attorneys have free reign to act like lawyers at these hearings. They can introduce evidence, challenge evidence, and make legal arguments.

Because the environment is pro-applicant at the ALJ hearing, most claims settle out of court shortly before the hearing.

Count on a Dedicated Hillsborough County SSDI Lawyer

Victims need and deserve compensation for their injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in Tampa, contact the Rooth Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.