How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

If you've been hurt or have suffered a disability and cannot work, it is important to understand your options and know how to apply for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration.  There are 5 levels in the application process:

1.   The Initial Application.

The initial application can be filled out online by clicking here.  Be patient while your application is evaluated and realize that almost all of these initial applications are denied.  Do not be discouraged, however, because there are additional levels in the application process.

2.   The Request for Reconsideration

If your initial claim for benefits is denied, the next step is to file what is known as a "Request for Reconsideration."  This typically must be filed within 60 days.  The Social Security Administration makes this form available online, and it can be found by clicking here.  

Similar to the initial application, many Requests for Reconsideration are denied as well.  But don't worry; if your application for disability benefits is denied at this level, you can still move forward to the next step.

3.   Request for a Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge

If your initial application and Request for Reconsideration has been denied, the next step is to request a hearing with an administrative law judge who works for the Social Security Administration.  It is at this stage that representation from our office is most valuable because we are experienced in putting cases together to ensure a good possibility of success.  But if you are completing this process on your own, the "Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge" form is available by clicking here.

4.   Appeal of the Administrative Law Judge's Decision to the Appeals Council

If you have a hearing before an administrative law judge and still lose on your claim for disability benefits, you can appeal the decision to the Appeals Council, which is based near Washington, D.C..  The Social Security Administration provides a lot of information on the appeals process, which can be found by clicking here.

5.   Appeal to the Federal District Court

If you appeal your decision to the Appeals Council and lose, then your last option is to appeal directly to a Federal District Court.  Before you choose to do this, it is recommended that you first consult with experienced legal counsel because federal rules of procedure and evidence are fairly complex.  


Posted on January 7, 2014

Is NSA Spying Unconsitutional?nsa image

Edward Snowden helped expose the NSA collection and spying of domestic telephone records, and federal district court Judge Richard Leon has opined in a limited ruling that he believes the practice is unconstitutional.  While Judge Leon's ruling is limited to the application of the claims before him, at least some experts believe this paves the way for additional appeals about the NSA's practices.  

The New York Times published a helpful article on December 16 about the ruling.  Click here to read that article.

December 17, 2013.  

What’s the Workers’ Compensation Process?

If you’re injured on the job, you certainly need to report it as quickly as possible.  Utah law requires you to report an industrial injury within 180 days from the date of the accident.  If you do report the injury within 180 days, and then receive benefits for a while, it is possible that those benefits will cease, typically after the insurance carrier sends you to what is called an “independent medical examination” or “IME” with a doctor whom the insurance carrier has selected.  Make no mistake: these examinations are certainly not independent, as the doctors who routinely perform these examinations for insurance carriers are paid handsomely in return, and in our experience, these doctors’ opinions almost always favor the insurance carrier’s position and not the injured worker.

If your benefits are terminated or if your medical treatment is denied, then you have up to six years from the date of your accident to file a formal application for hearing with the Utah Labor Commission.  This application will prompt a response by the insurance carrier, who will retain an attorney to represent them.  The discovery process will begin, with the exchange of written questions (interrogatories), the production of documents, and most of the time, the attorney representing the insurance carrier will want to take your deposition.  Typically, an administrative law judge who works for the Labor Commission will set you a hearing date approximately 5-6 months out from the date of filing.  At the hearing, evidence in the form of testimony, medical records, medical bills, etc., are presented, and the judge is responsible for making a decision to award or deny benefits.  Sometimes, the injured worker and the insurance carrier are arguing about “medical causation,” which essentially means that the medical injuries from which the injured worker is suffering is connected to the industrial accident.  Usually, the injured worker’s doctors offer opinions that the medical injuries are related to the industrial accident, and the insurance carrier’s doctor (remember the IME that they sent you to) opines that it is not. 

In this situation, the judge is bound by statute, administrative rule, and Utah judicial opinions to refer your case to a “medical panel.”  A medical panel is a group of one or more doctors who are retained by the Labor Commission to independently and objectively review your medical records and render an unbiased opinion.  The judge then issues a decision after reviewing the medical panel’s report, which decision, as a practical matter, almost always agrees with the medical panel’s conclusions.

After this, there is a lengthy appeals process for the parties.  Either party can appeal to the Utah Labor Commissioner, or, alternatively, the Utah Labor Commission Appeals Board.  After exhausting these administrative remedies within the Labor Commission itself, a party can then file a Petition for Review with the Utah Court of Appeals.  If a party is not satisfied with the Court of Appeals’ decision, they can petition the Utah Supreme Court for what is known as a “Writ of Certiorari” to review their case.  The Supreme Court has complete discretion to grant these petitions or not.  If the court grants the petition, it means that they agree to review the Court of Appeals’ decision.  If the court denies the petition, then this means that the Court of Appeals’ decision stands. 

Since workers’ compensation is a matter of state law, and because federal courts have limited jurisdiction, there are few options in seeking review in federal court.  The only real basis to appeal to a federal tribunal is if there has been some denial of a federally protected right, such as a denial of due process. 

Overall, the workers’ compensation process can be complex, which is why it’s wise to contact a workers’ compensation attorney who can help you navigate through it.  At Aaron J. Prisbrey, P.C., we take our cases on a contingency fee and are paid a percentage of the amount we recover on your behalf, and only if we win.  If you’ve been hurt at work, even if it was several years ago, you may have options.  Give our office a call so we can review those options with you. 

History of Workers' Compensation

Utah enacted its Workers' Compensation Act in 1917 during the same time period when the States were enacting their own statutes.  Each state's workers' compensation laws are different.  Watch this interesting video about the history and development of workers' compensation laws in the United States:

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Aaron J. Prisbrey, P.C. is pleased to announce a new and improved website.  Updates are being made regularly as this transition is made.  Please be sure to follow our blog for new information from around the legal world, and "like us" on Facebook.




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