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Sacramento Social Security Disability Legal Blog

Medical records and disability benefits

People in California are not required to have a previous medical history to file for the disability benefits the Social Security Administration provides, including Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Still, disability examiners prefer that there are medical treatment records they can review to assist with their disability decisions. For individuals who have received some form of treatment for their disability, the medical notes from their personal doctor can provide valuable insight to disability examiners.

Important information, such as an applicant's limitations or their reaction to different methods of treatment, is not typically included in hospital treatment notes. While hospital records are a valuable source of objective medical data, such as lab test results or imaging tests, and provide information about acute medical treatments, they do not provide sufficient information about who severe an applicant's disabling condition is and about how the limitations can be enough to prevent the applicant from being able to work to support themselves.

SSD applicants can benefit from disability hearings

When people in California apply for Social Security Disability benefits, they may want to figure out how to maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome. However, during the first two stages of the process, there is often little an applicant can do to influence the outcome of their case. When an application for SSD benefits goes through the initial review process and then the reconsideration appeal, disability examiners make the decision about the outcome at those stages.

In general, disability examiners deny more people's claims for Social Security Disability benefits than administrative law judges, who preside over the third stage of the process. After a disability application has been denied at the first two levels, the claimant can proceed to a disability hearing. At a disability hearing, the applicant has the opportunity to review the file being used for their case and supplement it with additional medical evidence. In addition, they can ensure that none of their medical records are missing. In some cases, people have learned that significant records were never obtained by the examiner despite the contact information for the relevant physicians being provided.

Firefighters often suffer from muscular injuries at work

It's easy to assume that injured firefighters most commonly suffer from burn injuries or respiratory illnesses due to the more serious risks at hand in their line of work. However, muscular injuries, such as sprains and strains, are actually what most affect firefighters.

The reason for so many injuries being muscular in nature is because firefighters have safety equipment to protect them from burns and toxic gases, whereas they have nothing to protect them from the risks that come with the physical demands of such hazardous conditions.

Challenging repeated denials of disability benefits

The Social Security Administration frequently denies applications for disability benefits. A denial -- even a second denial after a reconsideration appeal -- does not exhaust options for applicants in California. By obtaining a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, applicants get a third chance. Hearings often prove successful for applicants with representation. Over 60 percent of applicants who bring legal representation to a hearing are awarded benefits.

To avoid having to start a new application, people must meet deadlines for the appeals process. After the agency denies an initial application, people have 60 days plus five mailing days to prepare and submit paperwork asking for a reconsideration appeal. Applicants should send medical records that document the disabling condition and the date of the onset of disability. An appeal should also include current medical records generated within the previous 90 days. Disability examiners prefer to see records from physicians who have been providing treatment.

Following through after a disability application is submitted

When California residents submit a Social Security Disability Insurance or SSI claim, the cases will be assigned to a disability examiner who is authorized to decide on claims at the disability application level and during reconsideration appeals. If more information is required, the applicant may be asked for this information or scheduled for an examination appointment.

Applicants who are required to undergo an examination will receive a letter advising them of the consultative examination, or CE. These examinations are conducted by either a physician or psychologist who is tasked with obtaining information for the Social Security Administration that may not be available in the applicant's record. A CE may also be conducted if the applicant has no medical records that are dated no earlier than the last 90 days.

Disability hearings can be positive for SSD applicants

When people in California apply for Social Security Disability benefits, they may consider how they can improve their application for benefits and increase their likelihood of approval. People who are applying for benefits because they are unable to work often desperately need the funds and may look for every opportunity to enhance their chances of a positive determination. However, in the first two steps of the process, the initial application and the reconsideration appeal, there are few opportunities for an applicant to bolster their file.

At these stages of a Social Security Disability benefits application, the decision is made by disability examiners. In every state, these examiners have a higher rate of denied applications than administrative law judges, who preside over disability hearings, the next stage of a benefits application. When people first apply for SSD benefits, they do not have an opportunity to provide additional documents, seek out new medical opinions or answer questions directly from the decision-maker. Often, the first communication an applicant receives from the disability examiner is the notice of decision about their benefits.

Quicker processing of SSD claims

California residents who may be in situations in which they need to have their SSI or Social Security Disability case processed as soon as possible may be able to do so by submitting a request. A dire need request is one that appeals for faster processing of an application due to extenuating circumstances, including the high likelihood that the applicant may lose the home that they own or rent. A dire need request may also be submitted if the applicant is in danger of having their utilities cut off or is unable to pay for required medicine.

At the disability application and appeal levels, dire need requests have no impact. At those stages, the disability examiners are unable to speed up the process as there is typically nothing that can be expedited.

The biggest culprit in slowing down SSD decisions

California residents who are disabled could be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. But the wait time for getting approved for benefits is known to be rather long. The reason for this often involves the need for proper documentation of the applicant's medical condition. Sometimes medical offices or even the applicant can cause delays in the process.

Disability as it pertains to receiving benefits means that people are disabled to a point where they cannot work for a period of at least one year. In order for a disability examiner to decide if this is the case with an individual applicant, medical records must be obtained. The applicant can help by submitting as much information as he or she can obtain, and by contacting his or her doctors to authorize release of medical records.

Applying for SSDI benefits

Going through the application process for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits can sometimes be difficult. However, there are certain steps that California residents can take to enhance the likelihood that they will receive the benefits they need, even if they have been initially denied.

Beginning the SSDI application or appeals process can be daunting. To bolster themselves, applicants should keep in mind that they have contributed to the funds used for SSDI through the FICA taxes withheld from their wages. Therefore, they should not hesitate to apply for assistance if they need the assistance.

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