Will I Qualify For Disability Benefits in Alabama?

Actually, you have a fairly decent chance of qualifying for disability benefits in Alabama. Statistical data suggests that roughly thirty-one percent of all disability claimants qualify for disability benefits in Alabama when they file their initial disability claim with Social Security. The obvious corollary to this, of course, is that approximately seventy percent of claimants will need to follow the appeals process in order to win benefits.

How do you qualify for disability benefits? Primarily, by satisfying the Social Security Administration definition of disability. The SSA definition of disability maintains that for an individual to be found disabled, they must have one or more medically determinable impairments (which may be physical, mental, or both) that are severe enough to last at least one full year in duration and prevent them from engaging in SGA, or substantial and gainful work activity.

Meeting the SSA definition of disability will always entail a review of the claimant's medical evidence. After this review has been conducted by a disability examiner, the determination may be made that the claimant has a condition that satisfies a listing in the Social Security list of impairments. Most claimants will not be found to have a listing-level impairment.

Nonetheless, claimants may still be approved on the basis that they no longer have the ability to A) return to their past work or B) switch to some type of other work. This form of approval is known as a medical vocational allowance and it involves a review of the claimant's work history as well as their history of medical treatment.

If a claimant is denied on an initial disability claim, they may still qualify for disability benefits by filing a reconsideration appeal. Only fourteen percent of reconsideration appeals filed in Alabama are approved for disability benefits. While this is a disappointing approval rate, the reconsideration appeal is still a necessary step in the Social Security Disability process, primarily because going through the reconsideration phase allows a case to move forward in the system.

After the reconsideration appeal has been concluded, a claimant may file for an administrative law judge hearing. The average approval rate for disability hearings in Alabama is about sixty percent; more disability applicants qualify for disability benefits at this level of the disability process than any other.

Individuals wishing to improve their chances of qualifying for disability benefits at a hearing may wish to speak with a Social Security Disability representative. A representative can be a disability lawyer, or a non-attorney representative (many of whom are former Social Security employees, such as field office claims representatives, disability examiners, and hearing office personnel).

The approval rate for disability applicants with social security representation is higher than those who chose to forgo representation at their disability hearing.

Note: The request for reconsideration appeal step is currently suspended in the state of Alabama as Alabama is one of 10 prototype states testing a system in which denied claims move immediately to the hearing level upon appeal. Reconsideration may be reinstated at some point and many consider this likely. In the meantime, a claimant who is denied on a disability application should request, and prepare, for a hearing before a federal administrative law judge.

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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