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Will I Qualify For Disability Benefits in Arizona?
To begin the task of qualifying for disability in Arizona you must file an application with Social Security. You can do this by contacting your local Social Security office to schedule a disability interview by phone or in person. Or, you can file an online disability application.
If you chose to file your disability claim online, you will be unable to file a SSI disability claim, so if you think you may meet the income and resource limits of the need based SSI disability program you should probably file your disability claim with your local Social Security office.
Additionally, make sure that you complete all the necessary online disability forms. If you do not, your disability claim may be denied. When disability applicants fail to complete the forms it requires a contact from Social Security. If they--SSA-- then fail to reach the applicant, for whatever reason, the claim can be denied for failure to cooperate. In other words, online filing can actually set claims up to be quickly denied.
If you chose a telephone or in-office disability interview, a Social Security claims representative will complete your application and all necessary disability forms. They will also evaluate your eligibility for the need based SSI disability program. If you meet the SSI disability income and resource limits, they will file an application for this program as well.
Once your disability claim is completed, your disability claim will be sent to one of two Disability Determination Services locations in Arizona for a medical disability determination. DDS is located in both Tucson Arizona and Phoenix Arizona.
Processing a disability claim in Arizona
Once your disability claim reaches DDS, it is assigned to a disability examiner who will get medical records from the treating sources you provided with your disability application.
The examiner may send questionnaires to you and the third party you provided on your disability medical report (these are questionnaires that address how your disabling condition prevents the performance of routine daily activities), and also a work report to address your relevant work for the fifteen years previous to filing for disability.
If your medical treatment sources are older than ninety days old, there is a good chance you will have to attend a consultative examination performed by a doctor paid by Social Security. Why? Social Security must have medical evidence that is no older than ninety days to make their disability decision.
Once the disability examiner has enough information, they will make a medical disability determination.
In Arizona, the initial disability claim approval rate is only about 30%.
Disability Appeals in Arizona
If you hope to qualify for disability benefits, Arizona has a four-step disability appeal process. If you disability claim is denied by the Arizona DDS, the first appeal level is a reconsideration appeal. If you file a reconsideration appeal, your disability claim is sent back to DDS for a review of the initial disability claim decision. The only difference is that a different disability examiner will make the decision.
Understandably, very few reconsideration appeals result in an approval for disability. The second disability examiner is bound by the same rules and guidelines; consequently the initial disability examiner would have needed to have made an error, or you would have to provide new medical evidence, to support a finding of disability.
In Arizona, as in many other states, the reconsideration appeal rate is very low.
Arizona’s reconsideration approval rate is 12.1%.
Again, this means many of the disability applicants who file reconsideration appeals do not qualify for Social Security disability or SSI at that level.
Disability Hearings in Arizona
If your reconsideration appeal is denied, you must go to the next level of the Social Security disability process if you want to continue your disability claim. To appeal your reconsideration denial, you must file a request for an administrative law judge review. This appeal involves a disability hearing before an administrative law judge.
Unlike the reconsideration appeal, Administrative law judge disability hearings have the highest approval rate of all levels of the Social Security disability process. Arizona has hearing offices (officially known as the Office of Disability Review and Adjudication or ODAR) in Tucson, North Phoenix, and Phoenix. Your disability hearing will be held at the hearing office nearest to your local Social Security office.
Arizona judges have an average approval rate of about 56% compared to a national average of about 58%.
If your disability hearing is denied, you can appeal the judge’s decision to the Appeals Council, however it is unlikely the AC will approve your disability claim. At the very best, they may remand it back to the judge to review their decision. Needless to say, very few disability applicants qualify for Social Security benefits at this level.
In most cases, the wait for a decision is just that, a wait which will not likely improve your chances of being approved. It is at this juncture that many disability applicants just choose to file a new initial disability claim. There are situations in which it would not be advisable to file a new claim--if you have a disability representative they can help you determine what is best for you.
The last level of appeal for any disability claim is Federal District Court. Very few disability applicants pursue their disability claims to Federal Court because of the time and expense involved.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Individual Questions and Answers