Social Security Disability Insurance in the state of Georgia
Georgia has a low rate of high school graduates and a high percentage of people who are uninsured putting those who are uninsured and disabled in Georgia in a financially vulnerable position. If you’re in this position you may be able to receive financial assistance through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
SSDI is a federal program that provides benefits to disabled people if you meet certain conditions of eligibility such as:
- A disability that meets or is equivalent to one or more listings in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Blue Book
- Your disability has lasted or is likely to last for at least one year.
- You disability prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
- You have paid into the Social Security system and have earned enough work credits.
In Georgia about 27% of the applicants are approved for SSDI benefits at the initial application level. While the top two diagnostics on the SSDI beneficiary list in Georgia are disabilities that stem from a mental disorder (29%) and musculoskeletal system diseases (29%), Georgia ranks in the top 10 states for the highest number of SSDI beneficiaries for diseases such as infectious and parasitic diseases (5th position) and the circulatory system (7th position).
Filing a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim in Georgia
About 12.4% of residents in Georgia suffer from a disability. If your medical condition exactly meets a Blue Book listing you will easily qualify for SSDI benefits. The majority, however, will not meet exact conditions in the Blue Book but can receive a medical vocational allowance. In such cases the SSA will:
- Assess the medical records you provide to decide whether your disability is equivalent to any one of the listings in the Blue Book.
- Look at your work records of the last 15 years.
- Evaluate your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to assess your physical limitations.
If your disability is comparable to a Blue Book listing and prevents you from working at your current job or any other job because of your physical limitations, you may receive a medical vocational allowance.
The process can take several months and even longer if you fail to provide complete information on your application forms. Having an advocate who specializes in the SSDI application process can be extremely useful and can help facilitate the process and increase your chances of success. It is important for you to know how the process takes place and the crucial elements that could tip the case in your favor.
Click here to know more about the SSDI application process or watch the informative video below.
There are 32 Social Security offices in the state of Georgia. As in other SSA state offices, you can apply online, by phone, or in person at a Social Security office near you. Your case is sent to a state agency usually called Disability Determination Services (DDS) where it gets assigned to a Social Security Disability examiner. The disability examiner will request for your medical records from the treatment centers you have listed. He may take the counsel of a medical or vocational expert or request further diagnostics to be done. The examiner will then call you for an interview which may be via video or telephone if you are not able to come in person. Based on all the evidence you provide, the Social Security disability examiner will make a determination. Determinations may take 3 to 5 months, even longer if there are a number of backlogs in the system.
Only 27% of SSDI claims are awarded benefits at the initial application level in Georgia. If you’re one among the majority of 73% who are denied claims at the application level, there’s no need to worry because the chances of your claim being approved are higher in the appeals process. The process of appeals consists of 4 stages.
- Reconsideration: The initial application process is replicated in this first stage of the appeal. The only major difference is that your case is assigned to another disability examiner. If your medical records are older than 90 days you may be able to present new medical evidence at this stage that could help fortify your case. The rate of approval at this stage in Georgia is 12%. The 88% of claimants who are denied their claim may appeal at the next level.
- The Court Hearing: Statistically, across the country, your chances of approval are best at the hearing stage. Because this is your best opportunity, you are advised to make the most of it by getting an attorney who can best represent your case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). In Georgia, the approval rate at the disability hearing level is 55%, which is slightly lower than the national average of 59% but this is an average and the approval rates of some hearing courts in Georgia are known to be as high as 59.7%.
- The Appeals Council: The Council will determine whether the decision made by the ALJ was fairly determined by looking at all the evidence once again. The Council can reverse the decision of the ALJ or send your case to another ALJ. He can also agree with the ALJ and deny your claim. You’ll then have to decide whether you would like to appeal at the next and final level.
- Federal Review: Appealing at this level is taking your case to a federal court. Unless you can prove your case has been unfairly treated at all the above 3 stages of appeals, it is better to re-start the application claims process rather than appeal at the federal court as this is expensive and the least likely to end in your favor.
Appeals must be filed within 60 days of the date of the denial notice. Attorneys specialized in the SSDI claims process can help you understand why your claim was denied in the first place. Their experience and knowledge of the SSDI claims process can be used to your advantage and they can help you prepare a tight case that clearly demonstrates you meet the SSDI claims criteria. Having representation can improve your chances by 60%.
Fill out our free disability evaluation form today! Many people make the mistake of waiting until they have run out of money and resources to file an SSDI claim. Since the process can take several months we advise you not to wait. As soon as you know that your disability may last for a year or more, fill the form on the right and let us help you get the benefits you deserve.
Helpful Resources for those with Disabilities in Georgia
If you’re not qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance or would like additional support, the Georgia State Administration offers several other programs to help people with different disabilities. Follow the links below to know more about these helpful programs:
- Georgia’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA): This state agency helps people with disabilities prepare for gainful employment right from application to eligibility determination, assessment to job placement.
- 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.
- The Georgia Food Stamp Program: This federal program (known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP) administered through state agencies 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.