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Applying For SSDI Benefits: A Guide For Michigan Applicants

Written by attorneys Justin M. Bahrie and Kayla Byrd-Daniels

To apply for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI benefits) you can apply directly online, or you can call your local Social Security District Office to make an appointment for either over the phone or in-person at your local office.

Alternatively, you can contact our office for a free evaluation of your case. If your case is ready to be filed, we will provide you with a form to complete and we can file your application online on your behalf. We have assisted clients to file thousands of applications, so we know what information needs to be put in the application and how to word the answers to give you the best chance of winning your case.

We prefer to get involved at the beginning of the case so that we can make sure you have a strong foundation, and that the paperwork is filled out correctly. We also provide a list of things that our clients should be doing while their case is being processed that is custom tailored to their individual circumstances.

Although the process is similar for every case, every person’s circumstances are unique. We evaluate all of your conditions and help present the most compelling issues to the Social Security Administration.

Applying For Benefits: The First Step

The first step to determine whether you qualify for SSDI is to confirm that you have enough recent work credits. To do so, you can create a My Social Security account, where you will find very useful information pertaining to your Social Security account.

We often get asked: How much money will I get if I qualify for Social Security Disability? This answer and more can be found by creating an account. You will also be able to see how much you will be eligible for at early retirement (62), full retirement (67), or disability (at any age). You will be able to see a printout of how much money you paid taxes on over the course of your work history. This is important to review to ensure that you are being given credit for all of your earnings you have reported.

This process can be a bit confusing, and we would be happy to assist you in evaluating your work history to confirm eligibility. Give us a call today and we can help you navigate this complex process. We have offices in Lansing and Metro Detroit (Livonia) and represent clients throughout Michigan.

Gathering Necessary Documents

Preparing for your application you will want to gather the following information:

  • Basic Information
    • Identification – driver’s license, state ID or passport
    • Birth certificate
    • Social Security Number
  • List of your medication conditions
  • Medical Providers/Hospitals
    • Name
    • Address
    • Phone number
    • Dates of treatment
  • List of Current Medications
  • Provide copies of medical records in your possession
  • Spouse Information
    • Name
    • Social Security Number
    • Date of Marriage
    • Income of spouse
  • Minor children
    • Name and Date of Birth
    • Social Security Number
  • Proof of citizenship or legal residency
    • Birth certificate
    • Immigration paperwork
  • Copy of most recent W2 Form or Tax Return
  • Summary of the jobs you have worked over the past 15 years, soon to be 5 years
    • Employer
    • Dates of Employment
    • Job performed
  • Workers’ Compensation documents if you have received
  • Certified copy of military discharge papers – DD214, if you were in the military

Social Security Administration provides a detailed checklist here: https://www.ssa.gov/hlp/radr/10/ovw001-checklist.pdf

Call us today and we will provide you with a document that can be used to organize this information in a simple format that we can use to file your application electronically.

At that time we will provide an evaluation of your claim at no charge and ensure that it is the right time to file your application. We will confirm that you are on the right path to treatment that will be necessary to win your case.

Contingency Fee Representation

Bahrie Law, PLLC, fights all the way to the Supreme Court

Our representation is based on a contingency fee, meaning you do not owe us a fee unless we win your case. Our fee is governed by statute and is limited to 25% of your past due benefits with no fee on future ongoing benefits.

At Bahrie Law, PLLC, we have fought Social Security Disability cases all the way up to the US Supreme Court. We are highly experienced SSDI attorneys who represent clients throughout Michigan from our offices in Lansing and Metro Detroit.

Working With Bahrie Law, PLLC To File Your Application

If you decide to retain our office, we will work with you to electronically file your application. Upon receipt, usually within one to two weeks, Social Security will send out confirmation of application, which is a copy of your submitted application. You will need to check the summary of the application and return with signed authorizations. The Social Security Administration will then begin to process your disability claim. The application is processed by the disability determination service (DDS) and the process typically takes six to nine months to issue an initial decision.

During that time, DDS will send you two forms that will need to be completed and returned:

  • The first form is called a work history report (SSA 3369-BK) and you will need to provide accurate details of your past work. This document is very important because you want DDS to accurately classify your job, since it can be the difference between approval and denial specifically when applying the Grid rules for applicants over the age of 50.
  • The other form is called a function report (SSA- 3373-BK) and you will describe how your conditions and impairments affect your ability to function and handle daily activities. This form can be tricky as it leads you to describe what you can do rather than what you cannot do, so you will want to be clear and concise when completing this form. The Social Security Administration will compare what you state in the form to job duties. We suggest that you complete these forms to the best of your ability, and then contact our office so that we can go through them together.

DDS will also use the medical release you signed (SSA-827) to request medical records from all of the providers listed in the application. It is important to note that Social Security will typically only request records back 1 year from the date of the application. It is critical that you have objective evidence to document the disability you are alleging. As such, it is important to make our office aware of any evidence that may exist that is older so that we may obtain this information directly such as a cervical or lumbar MRI from a few years ago. If SSA does not have the record, it is as if the problem does not exist.

A Consultative Exam May Be Requested

Once DDS has reviewed this documentation, if they are still unable to make a determination as to your limitations, they will likely send you out for a consultative exam. They typically send claimants for two types of evaluations, a physical or mental examination. These evaluations are relatively brief, and it is imperative not to rely on these evaluations alone to prove your case. These evaluators will typically review evidence in your file prior to the evaluation in order to better give an opinion of your restrictions. Give us a call prior to your evaluation and we will walk you through what to expect during the evaluation and best prepare you to get the important issues across.

The Disability Determination Services will use a 5-step process to determine if you meet the eligibility guidelines. The initial decision will either be an award letter or a denial letter.

If Your SSDI Application Is Approved

If your case is approved, DDS will issue an award letter which will tell you how much your monthly SSDI benefits will be. The letter will outline when you will receive your monthly payment, how much your back pay will be and how it will be distributed. The letter may indicate that SSA will do a review of your case and they will inform you when they perform the review. Social Security typically reviews all approvals within 12-36 months for claimants under 50 with the hope their condition will improve to the point they are able to return back to work.

If Your SSDI Application Is Denied

If you receive a denial letter it will tell you why your application was denied. The letter may state that there was insufficient evidence to support your medical conditions, so you will be able to supplement your evidence for reconsideration. The reason for the denial could be that you are working over substantial gainful activity or there is no 12-month period of disability.

DDS usually does not provide a very detailed explanation, despite creating a detailed disability determination explanation that is contained within your case file. If your case is denied on initial application, you should take this decision with a grain of salt. The DDS office gets it wrong a lot. Every case that is won at a hearing by our office was denied at the application state. Sometimes this is due to gathering more evidence but many times it is due to flaws in the application process. Conditions that result in unreliability tend to be denied by DDS and an Administrative Law Judge is best suited to approve such claims at the hearing level with the help of a vocational expert that is present at the hearing. When your case is appealed, we will eventually be able to gain access to this document as well as the rest of your file.

Next Steps If Your Claim Is Denied

If you did receive a denial, you have 60 days to file a request for reconsideration. It is usually in your best interest to appeal this decision unless it is due to working above SGA or more time is needed to obtain treatment. Give us a call today and we will provide a free evaluation as well as assist in filing the appeal disability report.

Reconsideration

During reconsideration, your application is reviewed by an individual from Disability Determination Services (DDS), a division of Social Security Administration. The reconsideration evaluation will be conducted by an individual who was not part of your initial review and decision. You will have the opportunity to provide updated medical treatment and update any functioning limitations during the reconsideration review process. DDS may ask that you attend a physical or psychological consultative examination, to provide an independent evaluation of your conditions.

It typically takes three to six months for DDS to issue the reconsideration decision. The decision is typically the same as the initial determination unless there is substantial new evidence, a new diagnosis, or a change in age category. As such we are always preparing our cases to be ready for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. If you get a denial at this stage, it is again very important to file a timely appeal otherwise you have to start the process over from the beginning. Call us early on in the process so that you don’t miss your deadline for appeal.

The reconsideration decision will either be an award letter or a denial letter, much like the initial decision. The award letter will provide the same information as addressed above. If you receive a denial letter it will outline the reasons for denial, and you will have 60 days to file a request for hearing in front of an administrative law judge. You will be able to provide additional documentation for the ALJ to consider at the hearing.

Administrative Law Judge Hearing

At the hearing stage, you must submit all new evidence at least five business days prior to the hearing unless the ALJ finds good cause for a late submission. The hearings will be scheduled typically six to twelve months after your request for hearing has been submitted. The hearing can be held in-person at your regional Office of Hearing Operations, via video conference or teleconference.

You must attend your hearing, and you have the right to be represented by a lawyer. You should exercise this right as you will be held to the same standards of proof with or without an attorney. Again, we suggest you retain an attorney early on in the process who is experienced in the disability process. Our disability attorneys have represented thousands of clients many of which were in front of the same judge you have. It is important to have an attorney that knows the Judge, what they are looking for, and how they prefer to present their hearings. Every judge has a unique personality, and it is important to know that personality to give you the best chance of winning. At Bahrie Law, PLLC, we will prepare you for the types of questions the Judge will ask, review your entire file and make sure all documentation that can be obtained is done so with enough time to adequately present it at the hearing. 99% of your case is preparation.

These hearings are not open to the public and there will not be a lawyer representing the Social Security Administration. The ALJ starts the hearings formally with a statement of facts, identifying the individuals present and then they will place you, any experts and/or witnesses, under oath.

The remainder of the hearing is relatively informal and truly is a fact-finding process. The judge or your representative will ask you questions about your employment history, medical conditions and what sort of limitations you experience that impact your ability to work.

Free Consultation: Contact Michigan’s Social Security Disability Lawyers In Lansing, Metro Detroit & Beyond

Contact Bahrie Law, PLLC today, to help you prepare and assist at every step of the process. You can take comfort in knowing that our trained attorneys and staff will be right by your side through the hearing and after. Please contact our offices in Lansing or Livonia (Metro Detroit) today to set up a free consultation.