Social Security Disability Insurance in the State of Alaska
Finding work in Alaska when you suffer from a disability can be difficult. Federal programs like the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide financial assistance when you have a medical condition that prevents you from working for at least one year. It doesn’t matter how you became disabled. Many of the people currently on the SSDI beneficiary in Alaska include those with disabilities that stem from a mental health disorder (38%), diseases that stem from a musculoskeletal disease (28%) or the nervous system and sense organs (10%).
What does matter is whether you fit the SSDI definition of disability. Eligibility includes meeting the following criteria:
- Your medical condition should meet or be equivalent to a listing in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Blue Book.
- Your disability should prevent you from working at any substantial gainful activity for at least 12 months.
- You should have contributed to the Social Security system and have earned enough work credits.
Filing a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim in Alaska
About 10.7% of residents in Alaska suffer from a disability. If your medical condition exactly meets a listing in the Blue Book you can be automatically approved for SSDI benefits. You will be among the 39% who get approved for benefits at the initial application stage.
However, if your medical condition does not meet a Blue Book listing, you can still be approved for SSDI benefits through a medical vocational allowance. You will need to demonstrate that your medical condition is equivalent to a listing. This must be done by providing the SSA with complete information regarding:
- Your medical history. It should be clear from your medical records that your disability is severe. The SSA will evaluate your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). This is a measurement of your mental and functional capabilities such as sitting, walking, or your ability to follow instructions.
- Your work records. The SSA will review your work history of the last 15 years to see if you can still go back to work in spite of your disability, or whether you can be engaged in any other work that could help you earn a gainful income.
A medical vocational allowance is approved only for those with a medical condition that prevents them from working at any job.
The entire process can take 3 to 5 months, even longer if there is a backlog in the system. Often, delays are due to the time it takes to retrieve medical records. Another reason for delays is because the claimant has filed incomplete information. It is important to give the names, addresses and contact information of treatment centers and doctors who have treated you. Knowing how the SSDI claims process works can help you better prepare a winning case. Getting professional guidance will help you present your case in a way that clearly demonstrates you meet SSDI criteria for eligibility.
Click here to know more about the SSDI application process or watch the informative video below.
In the state of Alaska there are 3 Social Security offices. You can apply online, by phone, or in person at a Social Security office near you. The SSA will review your papers to make sure you have met the non-medical requirements for SSDI such as having enough work credits, being at an eligible age (younger than full retirement age), etc. The SSA will then transfer your file to a state agency, usually called the Disability Determination Services (DDS), whose job it is to check whether you meet the medical requirements for an SSDI claims approval. Your case is assigned to a Social Security Disability examiner who will retrieve your medical records from the treatment centers you have listed and if needed, confirm your condition from medical experts. The examiner will call you for an interview which may be via video or telephone, if you are not able to come in person. At the initial application level it is the job of the disability examiner to make the sole determination on your claim based on all the information you provide.
Only 38.7% of SSDI claims are awarded benefits at the initial application level in Alaska. The rest will receive a denial notice stating the grounds on which your claim was denied. If you disagree with the determination you have access to an appeals process. The process of appeals consists of 4 stages.
- Reconsideration: Another disability examiner in the DDS will review your file. Unless your medical condition has taken a downturn or the first disability examiner has overlooked an obvious piece of evidence that could turn your case around, your case is not likely to get approved at the first stage of the appeals process. In Alaska, the average rate of approval at this stage is 16.7%.
- The Court Hearing: In Alaska only 34.9% get approved at this stage which is lower than the average number who gets approved at the initial application level but it still presents you with the best opportunity you have of winning a claim. Here, your case will be presented before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and you are allowed to testify yourself and bring medical and vocational experts to testify for you.
- The Appeals Council: If you disagree with the ALJ’s decision you can file an appeal to the Appeals Council at the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) located in Falls Church, Va. They may review the case themselves or send it to another ALJ for a fresh hearing.
- Federal Review: The federal court is the last recourse you have to appeal. Most people stop after the hearing level but if you feel the SSA has not treated your case fairly you may appeal at the federal court level. However, it is usually better to start the SSDI claims process all over again rather than go through the long drawn out and expensive process of a federal review.
Appeals need to be filed with the SSA within 60 days of the date of the denial notice. If you miss the deadline, the ALJ may dismiss your appeal and you will need to start the claims process all over again. You’ll find the help of an advocate experienced in SSDI matters extremely useful. An advocate will help you file an appeal in a timely manner and gather all the paperwork that is necessary to demonstrate you meet the SSDI claims criteria. Advocates at Disability United are located across the United States and we’ll put you in contact with a knowledgeable advocate in your area.
Fill out our free disability evaluation form to find out whether your medical condition qualifies to receive SSDI benefits.
Since the SSDI process is long, especially for the vast majority who has to go through the appeals process, it is advisable to begin the process as early as possible. We would request you not to wait if you have a disability that could last a year or more and you are not able to work. Applying early will mean you start getting your benefits sooner. Fill the form on the right and let us help you get the benefits you deserve.
Helpful Resources for those with Disabilities in Alaska
If you’re not qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance or would like additional support, the Alaska State Administration offers several other programs to help people with different disabilities. Follow the links below to know more about these helpful programs:
- Alaska Vocational Rehabilitation: This website provides a wide range of resources to help Alaskans with disabilities get the vocational training they need to get and keep good jobs.
- The LIHEAP assistance program: This is a federally funded energy bill assistance program. You may be able to receive financial help in the form of a grant or credit on an account. Low-income homes that have a disabled family member, an elderly person, or a young child are given priority.
- Food Stamp Program: This federal program may help seniors, low-income workers, those who are disabled, and others put nutritious food on the table. Benefits are given every month through an electronic benefits card which can be used at authorized local food stores.