How do you find out how your disability claim is going and where it is in the process?

How do we find out what phase of the decision process my husband's disability claim is in? It has been close to three months. I am not working right now, so we are anxious to find out when we can expect a settlement.

Thanks for your help

Just to clarify: there are no settlements but, instead, awards made in two separate fashions. The first is by satisfying the criteria of a listing in the SSA bluebook list of impairments. Only a minority of approvals are made that way.

The second is by being given a medical vocational allowance, a process that involves reading a person's medical records, rating their residual functional capacity, and comparing it to their past work to see if they can return to their past work, or switch to some other type of work.

You can call your local Social Security office and they can tell you if they are working on the claim or a decision has been made. Unfortunately, that is probably all they will be able to tell you. That is because the decision for the claim is not made at the Social Security office where the claim was filed.

As in all cases, after a disability application is taken, the case will be transferred to a state disability agency where it will be processed to a decision by a disability examiner. In actuality, this is the individual you should probably contact to inquire about the status of the case.

If the decision has been made, the examiner will not be able to tell you what it is (you will have to wait for the written notice), but if the case is still being worked on the examiner may take the opportunity to ask you about medical treatment sources, work history, or your spouse's normal daily activities (ADLs). Very often, the examiner will need additional information in one of these areas in order to get to a final decision on the case.

To find out who the examiner is for a specific case, simply call the Social Security office where the claim was filed and ask for the number to the disability agency in your particular state. In most states, the agency is called DDS, or disability determination services.

Keep in mind, of course that the disability process is one where the odds are initially stacked against claimants; he may be denied benefits and he would have to begin the appeal process. However, individuals who follow the appeals process ultimately have a better-than-not chance of winning their benefits.

Note: medical vocational allowances and the bluebook listings are addressed in the links below.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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