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The Social Security Disability process, explained

Those in Missouri who are dealing with a severe long-term injury, condition or illness that forced them to stop working probably know that they may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. But if they have no experience applying for SSD, the process may seem confusing and overwhelming.

Basically, there are five steps that SSD applicants may have to go through before the Social Security Administration approves their benefits. Of course, every case is unique, and some applicants do not have to do all of these steps, so this is more of a general guide.

1. Application. Applying for SSD benefits involves filling out complicated forms and paperwork and obtaining medical evidence of your disability. Even at this initial stage, an SSD attorney’s assistance can be invaluable.

2. Approval/denial. The SSA rejects most, though not all, initial claims.

3. Appeal. A rejected claim is not the end of the road, it is simply the next step. You have the right to appeal the SSA’s decision.

4. Hearing. An appeal involves going before an administrative law judge and making your case for overturning the rejection. You may have an attorney work with you to prepare for the hearing, and represent you there.

5. Additional appeals. If the ALJ denies your appeal, you can appeal again, possibly up to federal court if necessary.

It often takes a long time to obtain SSD benefits, even when you are clearly entitled to them. But once approved, you will be able to live with less of a financial hole left by your lost earning capacity.

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