The Social Security disability claim process in Mississippi may require several stages.
You must first file your application for disability. This is called your “Initial Application”. You can file an initial application for benefits online, by telephone, or at a Social Security local “field” office located near your residence.
Disability Attorney W. Gary Kennan will help you at each stage of the Social Security disability claim process, including your initial application, your request for reconsideration, your appeal to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), your hearing, and your appeal to the Appeals Council. Each stage is discussed below.
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Upon the filing of your Initial Application the Social Security Administration will send your case to Disability Determination Services, a state agency, to gather additional information and to make an initial determination on your claim. That determination is usually made within three or four months.
If your case is denied (and most claims in Mississippi are denied at this stage), then you must appeal within 60 days of your initial denial letter, by requesting a Reconsideration. Your claim will then be assigned to a new disability examiner, but it will be reevaluated by the same Disability Determination Services. Any new evidence submitted will be considered, and a new decision will be issued.
If your case is denied again (and most cases are denied again at this stage), you must request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge within 60 days. The hearings for Mississippi residents are conducted at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) nearest your residence. There are two ODAR offices located in Southern Mississippi. One office is in Hattiesburg and the other is in Gulfport.
The hearings are either held in person or by video conference. At the hearing, the judge will review the medical evidence, hear your testimony, and may obtain testimony from a medical or vocational expert witness. The judge will often ask your representative to make an opening statement, which will describe the factors supporting your disability claim.
It is my practice to prepare a Pre-hearing Memo for the judge. This pre-hearing memo sets forth the background facts of your claim, describes the medical evidence, and gives a “theory of the case” telling the judge why your claim should be granted under the Social Security disability evaluation process.
There are 12 United States Administrative Law Judges permanently assigned to the Hattiesburg, Mississippi Hearing office. These Judges also hear the cases in Gulfport location.
If your application is denied at the ALJ hearing level you can appeal your case to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia with additional offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Crystal City, Virginia. You must file your appeal within 60 days from the date of your hearing decision denial. You do not go to another hearing. The appeals judges receive your file with all your records, including your medical records. They also receive a copy of the recording of your hearing. Any new evidence can also be submitted. I, of course, prepare a detailed brief explaining why the hearing ALJ erred and why you should be awarded your benefits.
In Mississippi, the most recent statistics indicate, that the average hearing wait time is now 11 months. The average processing time for the Appeals Council is 360 days. It seems that if you have an experienced Disability Benefits lawyer at the Initial Application level you can increase your opportunity to win at that level. You will then be saving yourself many months of anguish and despair.
For help with your Mississippi disability or SSI claim, please contact me today or ask for a no cost claim evaluation.