When you are an Alabama resident who wants to file a disability application, you can start by filling out an application online. Alternatively, you can make an appointment with your local field office. Or, you can call the Social Security Administration and apply by phone.
No matter how you begin your application, it is very important that you have with you all the information you will need to give the Administration. More instructions on how to file, what phone number to call, and what information you will need is located at the Administration’s website, here: https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/ . Or, call our office at 334-356-7879 in order to be mailed a free checklist that will help you gather what you need.
The Administration is going to ask for a list of your doctors and their contact information. It will also ask for you to fill out and sign a Form SSA-827, which authorizes it to request your medical treatment records. Make sure to include pharmacies, therapists, and imaging centers as well as doctors on your list.
Initial disability applications are processed by an agency known as the ‘Disability Determination Service’. This agency will gather the records necessary to process your disability claim. Sometimes, your doctors’ offices will not respond in a timely manner for the agency to use them in its determination. Make sure your medical evidence is well documented with the agency so that it won’t deny your benefits based on incomplete information.
The Disability Determination Service will look at whether you are making money by working and if so, how much. It will also look at whether your disability “meets the listing” of impairments defined by the Social Security Administration. It will look at whether you can do any work you have done in the last 15 years and whether you have any recent education. And it will determine whether you might be capable of some other type of work. Don’t be discouraged! There are a lot of legal rules that will help a claimant overcome an unfavorable determination made by the agency based on any of these factors.
Qualifying for disability in this initial stage is difficult but it can be done if you are thorough. The Disability Determination Service can be a little lackadaisical in it’s own investigation. It is important that you check in with it to make sure it has thorough evidence of your medical condition before it makes a decision.
If your claim is denied, you will receive a letter in the mail from the Disability Determination Service that is supposed to state a reason for your denial. Don’t let this deter you! Although it is possible to win your application at this stage, a very large number of cases are initially denied and then are won in the next step of the appeal process.
Make sure to watch your mail, because you will only have 60 days to apply for your disability hearing. If you do not file in that amount of time you will have to start the process all over again. You could be excused for good reason, such as being in the hospital. But it is best to stay within the time limit if you can at all help it.
If you are denied social security disability benefits in Alabama, the next step is to explain your case in front of an administrative law judge. There are four hearing offices in Alabama, one in Florence, one in Montgomery, one in Birmingham, and one in Mobile. After you file your appeal, you will need to submit all of your medical evidence to these offices, called the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (or ODAR).