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Applying for Disability Benefits After Brain Injury

Categories: Living with Brain Injury, Being a Caregiver, Public Policy

Many Americans suffering from a brain injury-related disability are unable to work and seek Social Security Disability benefits to alleviate their financial burdens. Unfortunately, the application process is burdensome and time consuming. At the time of initial application, the Social Security Administration only approves about 30 percent of more than two million applications each year, leaving the remaining 70 percent to navigate a stressful appeals process. There are five stages of the application and appeal process, specifically:

  1. Initial Application
    It often takes 90 to 120 days to complete the initial application process and, as stated above, the SSA only approves approximately 30 percent of applications at this stage.
  2. Reconsideration
    If the SSA denies the initial application, applicants have 60 days to file an appeal. It often takes 3 to 5 months to complete, and the SSA typically approves less than 15 percent at this stage.
  3. Hearing/Administrative Law Judge
    If the SSA denies the reconsideration appeal, applicants have 60 days to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Although the majority of cases are approved at this stage (more than 60 percent), it often takes more than one year to complete.
  4. Appeals Council
    If denied at the hearing level, applicants may file an appeal with the Appeals Council. Fewer than two percent of applications succeed at this stage.
  5. Federal District Court
    Following a denied Appeals Council claim, the applicant may choose to move the case to Federal District Court. The Court can approve or deny the claim for benefits or send the case back to the SSA for further review.

When should I hire a Preferred Attorney to help with my disability claim?

Although hiring an attorney to assist with the initial claim will save you from the long lines and painstaking paperwork, it is especially important to seek the advice of an attorney if the SSA denies your initial application. Your attorney will understand the confusing rules, regulations, and qualifications and make sure you never miss a deadline.

If the SSA denies the initial application, there is a good chance an administrative law judge will hear the case. Your attorney will prepare you for the hearing, skillfully question witnesses, and argue the appropriate medical and legal arguments.

What does it cost to hire an attorney to help with my disability claim?

Federal law regulates the fee process for Social Security Disability claims. Most attorneys work on contingency, meaning they receive payment when they win your case. The attorney fee may not exceed 25 percent or $6,000 of your back pay award, whichever is less.

What is the difference between SSI and SSDI?

Both SSI and SSDI provide cash benefits for disabled individuals, but the financial eligibility requirements are quite different. SSI is needs based, while SSDI is awarded based on the number of work credits the applicant has acquired.

Do I have to sell my home before I can receive SSI benefits?

Your home does not count toward the SSI resource limit. A BIAA Financial Issues Preferred Attorney is the best person to look at your income, assets, and work history and give you advice.