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How does the New York Social Security disability benefits process work?

The process of obtaining New York Social Security disability benefits involves essentially two steps: (1) file an application, and (2) request a hearing, if your initial application is denied.

Step 1: The initial application

There are three ways to apply for New York Social Security disability benefits. You may file an initial application by phone or in person, by calling 1-800-772-1213, and scheduling an appointment. You also may file online, at the Social Security Administration website, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/. Whichever means you choose, you will need to provide the Social Security Administration with information about your work history, your medical history; your treatment history; and your current medications.

Step 2: The administrative hearing

If you initial claim for New York Social Security disability benefits is denied, do not despair. Nationally, and in New York, more than 60% of initial applications are denied. However, your chances of a successful outcome improve significantly if you appeal your claim to the next level of review — a hearing before an administrative law judge.

You may request a hearing online, in person or by mail. You will need a list of your current medications and the contact information for all doctors (hospitals, clinics, etc.) that have treated you since you filed your initial application. Although testifying before a judge is something most people would rather avoid, this hearing is, in fact, a golden opportunity. It is your first (and, likely, best) chance to tell your story directly to the person who will be deciding your claim. Perhaps because of this personal interaction, applicants who pursue their claim to an administrative hearing are awarded benefits more often than not.

Post-hearing appeals

For many individuals, the administrative hearing marks the end of their claim, whether they are awarded benefits or not. However, if the administrative law judge denies your claim, two additional levels of appeal are available. You may seek relief first from the Social Security Appeals Council and then, if necessary, take your case to federal court.

How your claim is claim evaluated

The Social Security Administration uses a 5-step analysis to decide whether to grant or deny an application for disability benefits. The five steps require answers to the following questions, in the following order:

  • Are you working now? [No.]
  • Do you have a severe physical or mental impairment? [Yes.]
  • Does your impairment meet or medically equal a Listing impairment? [If yes, then you are automatically qualified to receive benefits. If no, then the analysis continues.]
  • Can you do work you have done previously? [No.]
  • Can you do any other work? [No.]Think of the sequential evaluation process like a flow chart. If you give the “wrong” answer at any step of the process, your claim will be denied. You can learn more about how the Social Security Administration evaluates your claim by reading “The sequential evaluation process” and the related articles listed under The Disability Evaluation Process in my library on this page. You may also find particularly interesting, Examples of who is and who is not disabled. This article gives examples of how the evaluation process plays out in real-life situations; the results may surprise you.