PLEASE NOTE: Our office is still open, serving our clients, and taking new clients, too! Attorneys and staff are working remotely and/or safely apart within our office(s) while recognizing the recommended guidelines for social distancing. Your health and safety, and that of our staff, is important to our firm. In response to the threats of COVID-19, we are currently offering clients and potential clients the ability to communicate with our attorneys and staff by telephone or email. As soon as it is deemed safe to meet in person, we will be happy to schedule in-office appointments. In the meantime, please contact our office by telephone or email to discuss your legal needs. We continue to fight for your disability benefits during this difficult and unprecedented time. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Understanding an SSD benefits application

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When people in California apply for Social Security Disability benefits, they may wonder about the next steps for their claim. The process can be lengthy, and initial denials are common, so having more information could help people navigate the system. After an initial application is filed, a state agency that handles disability determination services takes over the claim. Here, a disability examiner is assigned to handle the case. This examiner will go over the medical sources that an applicant provided in the claim for benefits, including requesting and reviewing medical records from the applicant’s treating physicians.

In some cases, the examiner determines that the medical records are not current, typically if they are 90 days past or longer. In this case, the examiner may call the applicant in for a consultative examination by a Social Security doctor to assess physical or mental health. These examinations are often not an excellent source of medical information, especially as the physician is not the claimant’s personal doctor with a knowledge of medical history and detailed symptoms. In most cases, these examinations are unlikely to lead to approval for SSD benefits.

Medical records are one important part of the application, and another key issue is the claimant’s ability to handle daily activities and functions. Applicants may be asked how well they can clean the house, shop, mow the lawn, type or otherwise engage in regular activities. It may harm a person’s claim to be excessively optimistic about management of life activities.

This initial review is just the first step in the Social Security Disability application process. If it results in a denial, applicants could still move through the system to pursue much-needed benefits. A disability attorney may help people present their claim from the earliest stages to a disability hearing and beyond.