Social Security Disability Insurance in the State of Virginia
Virginia has a high percentage of smokers which may not be coincidental since Virginia is the largest producer of tobacco in the country. From 2013 to 2015 the prevalence of smoking has increased by 3%. Smoking affects almost every organ of the body but what most people don’t realize is that smoking has a harmful effect on the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue which accounts for 28% of the disabled beneficiaries on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.
If you suffer from a serious disability which may be due to an injury or a disease, you may be able to receive SSDI benefits, too. In order to qualify for benefits, your disability should last at least a year and prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Other eligibility criteria includes:
- Meeting a medical condition listed in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Blue Book
- Having earned enough work credits in the Social Security system
In Virginia, SSDI applicants have about a 34% chance of getting a claim approved at the initial application level. This is higher than the national average which is around 30%. The top diagnostics on the SSDI beneficiary list in Virginia are disabilities that stem from mental disorders (34%).
Filing a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim in Virginia
About 11% of residents in Virginia suffer from a disability. If you are thinking of applying for SSDI benefits your disability should be an exact match to one or more of the listings in the Blue Book. In such cases, your chances of a quick approval are extremely good. However, if your disability does not match a listing in the Blue Book you may be able to receive a medical vocational allowance if the disability is comparable or equivalent to a Blue Book listing.
To be approved for a medical vocational allowance, you will need to provide evidence that your condition prevents you from working and earning a substantial income for at least for one year. The process of assessment will include:
- A review of the last 15 years work experience
- An evaluation of your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to assess your physical limitations
- Further diagnostics, if necessary
Claimants can help themselves to a quicker claims process by providing the SSA with complete and accurate information about your disability. A common reason for delays is because claimants fail to file accurate and complete information in their forms. Details such as proof of when your disability began will help establish an early onset date enabling you to get the maximum benefits through back pay. If you’re considering making an SSDI claim it is helpful for you to know how the claims process takes place.
Click here to know more about the SSDI application process or watch the informative video below.
Since the SSDI is a federal program, the application procedure is the same in every state. In the state of Virginia there are 32 Social Security offices. You can apply online, by phone, or in person at a Social Security office near you. This is how your application gets processed.
- Your case will be assigned to a Social Security Disability examiner who works for a state agency.
- The disability examiner will request for your medical records from the treatment centers you have listed and review all your medical and vocational records to see if you qualify for SSDI benefits or a medical vocational allowance. He may take the opinion of medical and vocational experts if he needs to. He may ask you to go through further diagnostics to help assess your case.
- The examiner will call you for an interview which may be via video or telephone if you are not able to come in person.
Based on the information you provide, the examiner will determine whether your condition qualifies for benefits. Determinations generally take anywhere between 3 to 5 months. This may take longer if there are a number of backlogs in the system.
Since only 30% of SSDI claims are awarded benefits at the initial application level in Virginia, the majority of 70% who are denied their claims will need to go through the appeals system. The process of appeals consists of 4 stages.
- Reconsideration: This is the first stage of the appeals process. Another disability examiner reviews your case to check whether the previous examiner has missed any evidence that could qualify you for SSDI benefits. The rate of approval at this stage in Virginia is 12.8%. The 87.2% of claimants who are denied their claim may appeal at the next level.
- The Court Hearing: Your case will be presented before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The chance of getting an approval on your claim is highest at this stage. While the approval rate at the disability hearing level is 47.4%, which is lower than the national average of 59% getting an attorney to represent you at a court hearing can greatly increase the odds of winning.
- 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, send your case to another ALJ or agree with the ALJ and send a denial notice.
- Federal Review: The last and final stage of appeal is the federal court. Not many choose to go to this last stage because it is expensive and slow and the verdict is less likely to be in favor of the claimant.
An appeal at every stage must be filed with the SSA within 60 days of the date of the denial notice. Cases that are represented by an attorney have a greater chance of success. That’s because an attorney who specializes in SSDI claims is well aware of what the ALJ is looking for. He will help you prepare your case with the right documentation bringing in medical and vocational experts who would help bolster your case. At this stage, an ALJ may give considerable weight to the testimony of your treating physician. Seniors are likely to get approved because of their age and because it is assumed that their opportunities for finding jobs decrease with age. But if you’re young and disabled you, too, can get approved for benefits if you can provide a detailed account of your treatment and prove that you meet the approval criteria.
If you have questions or need help in getting the benefits you deserve, fill out our free disability evaluation form today!
Helpful Resources for those with Disabilities in Virginia
If you’re not qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance or would like additional support, the Virginia State Administration offers several other programs to help people with different disabilities. Follow the links below to know more about these helpful programs:
- Virginia 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.
- Food Stamps: 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.