Applying for Disability in Alaska
How to apply and qualify for SSD, SSI in Alaska (AK)
Note: If you have already filed a claim and been denied for disability, or are wondering what to do in the event of a Social Security denial, proceed to the reconsideration and hearing appeal sections below.
Level I: Disability Application - In Alaska, the chance of receiving a disability award letter on an application is slightly better than the national average of 31 percent. As approximately 70 percent of individuals filing for disability will be denied, claimants should be prepared for the possibility of having to utilize the Social Security Administration's appeal process.
To apply for disability benefits, claimants have the option of using the Social Security Administration's online process, or by directly contacting a local field office. The online process, it should be noted, however, does not allow an SSI disability application to be taken.
Starting a disability application with a Social Security field office, by contrast, will allow for a face-to-face disability application interview to be conducted between the claimant and a CR (claims representative), the Social Security worker who is responsible for handling the intake portion of the claim. The application interview, which is not part of the online process, will also allow the claimant to ask whatever questions they may have about filing, and appeals in the event that the claim is denied.
Individuals with transportation or mobility issues may, after contacting a local field office, request that their interview be conducted over the phone. This may also be requested for claimants who simply prefer a phone interview. In such instances, an appointment time will be set for the claims representative to call the claimant.
Note: The primary goal of the disability interview is for the Social Security Administration to gather information that will determine the outcome of the case. For this reason, claimants are advised to write down both their medical treatment history and work history information prior to the appointment for the disability application interview. Doing this will help reduce the chance of errors as well as the chance of omitting critical information.
Qualifying for disability in Alaska
In both the SSD and SSI programs, the qualifications criteria focuses on an adult's ability to engage in work activity despite the limitations of their condition or conditions.
For a child, the issue of how to apply will be somewhat different as the disability requirements for a child applicant will involve a determination of whether or not the child is able to engage in age-appropriate activities with their peers.
After an initial claim is taken at a Social Security office, it is forwarded to the state disability agency, known in most states as DDS, or disability determination services. At DDS, the case is assigned to an examiner. The examiner's goal will be to determine whether or not the claimant meets the requirements for disability benefits.
In nearly all cases, the first task performed by the examiner will be to request medical records from the treatment sources listed by the claimant at the time of filing. The wait for requested records typically constitutes the single largest delay in the processing of a case. Depending on the treatment source, records may take days, weeks, or months to arrive.
This is why, in some cases, it is highly beneficial for claimants to provide their own copies of their medical records when they file for disability. However, claimants who do this should keep in mind that Social Security will need both older records and recent records.
Older records are needed to establish the earliest possible onset date for the claim, which will have a direct impact on how much disability back pay the claimant will receive, and will also impact when they may be eligible to receive medicare coverage, assuming that their claim is for SSD and not SSI which provides for medicaid coverage.
Recent records are needed to establish that the claimant is currently disabled. Recent records are considered to be those that are not older than 90 days.
Once the records have been received by the disability examiner, they will be reviewed to determined if the claimant may qualify for disability in one of two separate ways. The first is by satisfying the requirements of a listing in the Social Security Disability list of impairments. The second is by receiving a medical vocational allowance on the basis of being unable to engage in A) their past work, or B) some type of other work.
Level II: Request for Reconsideration - The reconsideration appeal is the second level of the Social Security Administration's disability system. The criteria to qualify for disability in Alaska is the same at this level. Disability examiners also render decisions at this level.
The reconsideration approval rate in Alaska is higher than the national average of 10.8 percent; however, with a denial rate of 83.3 percent, it is obvious that most claimants who file this appeal will have to request the next appeal which is a hearing before an ALJ, or administrative law judge. A reconsideration appeal must be requested within 60 days--plus an additional five days added for mailing time--of having been denied for disability at the disability application level.
The date of denial is usually stamped in the upper right hand corner of the denial notice, or notice of disapproved claim. However, for an appeal to be submitted in a timely manner it must be received by Social Security by the 65th day, not simply postmarked by that date.
Reconsideration appeal decisions are typically made faster than decisions on disability applications, presumably because the prior decision was made only weeks before and most of the development work for the case has already been completed. It is not unusual to receive a decision on a reconsideration appeal within 4-6 weeks of submitting the appeal.
As stated, the majority of these appeals are denied. In most cases, it should not be expected that an approval will be received at this level unless strong new evidence has been brought into the case, or the reconsideration level examiner has found an error on the part of the prior disability examiner.
Note: The request for reconsideration appeal is not currently being conducted in the state of Alaska. While it has been conjectured that the reconsideration appeal may return; presently, those who have been denied on a disability application may immediately file a request for a hearing.
Level III: Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge - The second appeal, the disability hearing, is adjudicated by an ALJ, or administrative law judge. Judges in Alaska award approvals at a significantly lower rate than the national average. As with the prior appeal, a disability hearing in Alaska must be requested within 60 days of being denied at the prior level.
Basic facts about disability hearings
Note: The hearing office in Alaska does not compare favorably with other Social Security hearing offices in the region or across the country. The SSA region for Alaska has a higher overall rate of approval at the hearing level: 48.9 percent. Additionally, the national rate of approval for disability hearings is currently 50 percent.
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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