While Americans value self-reliance, we are also a nation committed to helping those who help themselves. Because of this fundamental concern, our country has put in place a number of economic safety nets and ways to assist those in need. For many individuals, the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs provide significant benefits when unable to work or generate personal income.
What Medical Conditions Qualify
The Social Security Administration has developed a comprehensive manual that lists qualifying impairments and disabilities. Called the Blue Book, this guide is used by the government and doctors to help evaluate a person’s level of and type of disability. These assessments are essential to determining if you are eligible for disability and what your benefits might include.
The Blue Book lists a wide range of potential impairments, including:
• Skin disorder, such as dermatitis
• Mental disorders, including depression, schizophrenia and autism
• Kidney disease
• Musculoskeletal problems, such as injuries to the back
Of course, this is only a sampling of the potentially qualifying disabilities, and it takes someone with knowledge and experience to help you determine if your specific situation might qualify for SSDI benefits. In fact, your particular condition or ailment does not have to exactly match the listings and descriptions in the Blue Book, but it can be difficult to proceed if it doesn’t.
A key factor in determining your eligibility for disability payments is how your situation affects your ability to work. As an example, migraine headaches are not listed as a qualifying condition. However, if these are severe enough to keep you from working, you might qualify. It often takes a qualified doctor and lawyer who are experienced in Oklahoma disability processes to help explain disability listing, conditions equaling a disability listing, and/or your qualification for a medical-vocational allowance.
Determining Your Eligibility and Applying for Disability Benefits
While the Social Security disability program is run by the federal government, residents of Oklahoma encounter some unique aspects of the process. It is important for you to understand that all initial applications for Social Security and SSI disability benefits are dealt with by the Oklahoma Disability Determination Division (DDD). This department, which operates under the Department of Rehabilitative Services, processes applications after they are reviewed by Social Security.
After a determination is made concerning details of income limits and specific work requirements, the DDD takes over reviewing the application from the medical perspective. It is common for an individual submitting an initial application to find they are rejected. In fact, the statistics show only 28.6 percent of Oklahomans qualify on first applications, compared to 32.1 percent nationally.
If you are not approved on your first attempt, you can appeal through the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. There are three Oklahoma offices of ODAR to handle these appeals, and you will be called to one of them for a hearing on your appeal. In the reconsideration stage, only 9.6 percent of those applying have received benefits. Again, this is lower than the national average of 11.3 percent.
If your application qualifies for a hearing, you can expect a wait of nearly a year; 330 days is average. This is one area where Oklahomans fare better than the national average, which comes in at 349 days. However, the results of the hearings granting benefits (51.8 percent) fall below the results for residents of other states, who can expect positive results in 58.3 percent of the hearings.
Improving the Odds
In addition to federal benefits you may be granted, you may qualify for the additional payments made by the state of Oklahoma. While small, these additional payments can make a big difference. Currently, if you qualify based on financial need, you will receive $42 per month for an individual and $84 a month for a couple. If you have no other income and qualify, that means you would currently receive $1.132 per month as a couple and $740 per month as an individual.
It is generally recognized that if you have a lawyer assist you with the process, your odds of receiving benefits are substantially higher. This is especially the case for appearing at the hearings. If you attempt to handle the process on your own, you will often find the documentation and process of preparation daunting and frustrating. In fact, many individuals just give up, which makes the approval numbers seem higher than they actually are.
You will probably be seeking disability assistance when you are least able to handle the process yourself. The emotions and limitations from injuries, diseases and accidents make it difficult to deal with the different steps of documentation and qualification for benefits. If you are facing the need for disability assistance, we can help make the process less stressful and more effective.
One call to our firm will help provide the peace of mind you want and deserve – call us today at (405) 703-4567.