Social Security Disability Insurance in the State of Massachusetts
Massachusetts ranks third on America’s Health Rankings. This state has the lowest rate of mental illness in the nation with one of the highest access to care. Half the beneficiaries on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program are those who suffer from disabilities that stem from mental disorders. Other top diagnostics on the SSDI Massachusetts beneficiary list include disabilities that stem from diseases of the musculoskeletal system (21%), nervous system (8%) and the circulatory system (5%).
Federal programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide benefits for those who suffer from a disability. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) definition of disability is unique and your disability must match their definition in order to qualify for benefits. Criteria for eligibility include:
- A disability that has lasted or is projected to last for at least one year
- A disability that has impaired your daily functions and ability to return to work or earn at a level of substantial gainful activity
- A disability that meets or is equivalent to a listing in the SSA’s Blue Book
- You have earned enough work credits in the Social Security system
If you apply for SSDI benefits in Massachusetts you have a better than average chance of approval. About 38% of the applicants are approved for SSDI benefits at the initial application level which is considerably higher than the national average which is around 30%.
Filing a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim in Massachusetts
About 12% of residents in Massachusetts suffer from a disability. If your disability exactly meets a listing in the Blue Book, your chances of approval are extremely good. In severe cases of disability, you may request for your application to be expedited which puts your SSDI file on the fast track process to a claims approval.
The majority of claimants will not meet a listing exactly but can be given benefits through a medical vocational allowance. A medical vocational allowance is based on your functional abilities and how transferrable your skills are. To assess this, the disability examiner will evaluate your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), a measurement of your physical and mental limitations. It is usually easier for older people to get approved for a medical vocational allowance because of their age and lack of transferable skills. Younger people do get approved benefits but they need to prove their disability prevents them from working and earning a substantial income.
The initial application process can take 3 to 5 months. Delays are common and can be due to a backlog in the Social Security system or because claimants have failed to file complete information. Making sure you have provided accurate and complete information is one way to facilitate a faster claims process. Another way is to seek an advocate at an early stage in the application process. The services of a knowledgeable advocate will only increase your chances of winning benefits at the earliest possible stage.
Click here to know more about the SSDI application process or watch the informative video below.
The SSDI claims application process is similar for all 50 states. In the state of Massachusetts there are 33 Social Security offices. You have the option of applying online, in person at a Social Security office near you, or by telephone. The SSA sends your application to a state agency called the Disability Determinations Services (DDS). There, your case is assigned to a Social Security Disability examiner who will request for your medical records from the treatment centers you have listed. The examiner may work in consultation with medical and vocational experts to evaluate your condition.
While 38% of SSDI claims are awarded benefits at the initial application level in Massachusetts, the more than 60% who get a denial notice will have a higher chance of getting benefits through the process of appeals which consists of 4 stages.
- Reconsideration: Your case is transferred to another disability examiner to check whether any evidence has been overlooked by the first examiner. New medical evidence may be presented at this stage only if enough time has elapsed and your file no longer contains recent medical records. Recent is defined as not older than 90 days. The rate of approval at this stage in Massachusetts is 21.2%. The 78.8% of claimants should appeal at the next level which gives you the best chance of an approval.
- The Court Hearing: While getting a hearing scheduled may take several months, it is well worth the wait since, on average, more than 50% of claims are approved at the hearing level in Massachusetts. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will review your case and will consider the testimonies of your treatment physician as well as vocational experts.
- The Appeals Council: The decision of the ALJ will be reviewed by the Council to determine whether it is fair based on all the evidence that was presented. The Council can reverse the decision of the ALJ or send your case to another ALJ for a fresh hearing.
- Federal Review: The last and final stage of appeal is the federal court. Not many are recommended to pursue their claim to this stage for several reasons. It is an expensive, burdensome and a long-drawn out procedure. You may have better chances at approval by re-applying for SSDI benefits.
Appeals have to be filed with the SSA within 60 days of the date of the denial notice. Preparing a winning case is the key to successful approval of SSDI benefits. Advocates who are specialized in the SSDI claims process will understand why your claim was denied in the first place and help you prepare a case that clearly demonstrates that you meet the eligibility criteria for benefits. Having someone on your side who knows the SSDI claims process will not only save you time and money but a lot of stress as well. Many of these advocates are available free of cost.
We can help you get the benefits you deserve. Fill out our free disability evaluation form today to find out if you qualify! The sooner you start the SSDI claims process, the sooner you will be able to receive benefits. Starting the claims process early can also help establish an early onset date and maximizes your back pay.
Fill out the form on the right and let us help you get the benefits you are entitled to.
Helpful Resources for those with Disabilities in Massachusetts
If you’re not qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance or would like additional support, the Massachusetts State Administration offers several other programs to help people with different disabilities. Follow the links below to know more about these helpful programs:
- Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities: This website provides a wide range of resources for people with developmental disabilities looking for assistance in job training, residential services and more.
- 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.
- SNAP Benefits: This 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.