Applying for Disability in Connecticut
How to apply and qualify for SSD, SSI in Connecticut (CT)
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 - A disability application in Connecticut will typically be approved approximately one-third of the time and denied the remaining 70 percent of the time. These statistics fluctuate from year to year, and vary between states. But over the past two decades, they have been fairly consistent.
The high rate of denial, of course, means that a claimant will generally need to follow the appeal process to ultimately win disability benefits.
All title 16 SSI disability claims, title 2 Social Security Disability claims, and concurrent claims (meaning for both SSD and SSI simultaneously) begin with an initial claim, or disability application.
The claim may be filed online, or through a local Social Security office. However, individuals wishing to apply for disability should keep in mind the following facts:
1) An SSI disability claim cannot be filed online.
2) The online process does not allow for a direct disability interview, which can be very helpful to claimants because it allows a claimant an opportunity to ask questions about the application and appeal process and have them answered face-to-face. This can sometimes reduce the possibilility of mistakes being made on the part of a claimant.
Very often, claimants consider the online process simply because it may seem more convenient. However, Social Security will allow a person to file a claim through a local Social Security office and have their disability interview conducted over the phone.
This may be done for anyone who has medical mobility issues, transportation issues, or would simply rather not have to make a trip to the Social Security office. This accomplishes the goal of convenience while at the same allowing a claimant to get all the information that they need from a live-individual who works for SSA.
Social Security Disability versus SSI
Whether or not a person will be eligible to file for disability benefits under either program--SSD or SSI--will be decided by a local Social Security Office where the determination can be made as to which disability program the claimant is eligible to file under.
SSD, or Social Security Disability, is intended for individuals who have worked long enough to have earned work credits that qualify them to receive disability benefits through the title II program, provided that they are found to have met the medical requirements for disability and also meet the non-medical criteria (to receive title II benefits, a person must not be working at a level that earns them SGA level earnings).
SSI disability, or title 16 benefits, is intended for those who have never worked, such as children, those who have worked but not enough to have become insured for SSD, those who were once insured but have lost their insured status because they have not worked enough in recent years, and, finally, those who are insured for SSD but would only be entitled to receive a very small benefit amount each month.
In the latter example, a person may potentially receive both SSD and SSI in the form of a concurrent claim and this is to ensure that the individual who is approved for disability would receive at least a minimum amount in benefits each month (equal to the full amount that a person who receives SSI only would receive).
It should be noted, of course, that even a person who is medically eligible to receive SSI cannot receive SSI (as part of an SSI or concurrent claim) if they do not satisfy the SSI non-medical requirements. Unlike SSD, the SSI non-medical requirements also involve a limit on assets which are detailed on this page: SSI and Assets).
Disability claims are approved in two ways
Once a claim is actually started and a disability application interview has been completed with both the claimant and a social security CR, or claims representative, the case will be transferred to a disability examiner at DDS, or disability determination services.
The examiner will review the medical evidence once it has been successfully retrieved from the claimant's listed treatment sources. They may also schedule consultative medical examinations if the examiner determines that additional evidence is required to render a decision on the claim.
Decisions that are rendered by disability examiners may result in one of two types of approval:
A) An approval based on a Social Security listing.
B) An approval based on a medical vocational allowance.
A decision on a disability application in Connecticut can generally be made within 90-120 days, in line with national averages. Formal notification of the decision will be made by mail to the claimant, and their representative if they have one.
Level II: Request for Reconsideration - If an application for disability is denied in Connecticut, the next step will be to file a request for reconsideration. This is the first appeal that a claimant may file.
The odds of winning disability benefits at the reconsideration appeal level in Connecticut are even less than at the disability application level. Nationally, more than 80 percent of reconsideration appeals are dneied. This is, aruably, because the reconsideration decision is made by a disability examiner at DDS, as is the case when an individual is initially applying for benefits.
The process is, in fact, indentical to what occurs at the disability application level and the reconsideration process begins only a few short weeks after a disability application decision has been rendered. For this reason, it is usually unlikely that a denial will be effectively oveturned by a reconsideration level disability examiner unless the reconsideration examiner has evidence that was not available to the first examiner, or a mistake on the part of the first examiner is discovered.
How long does a reconsideration appeal take?
Reconsiderations tend to be processed more quickly than initial SSD and SSI claims on average and it is not uncommon to receive a decision on this type of appeal in under 30 days, though it is more likely that a claimant can expect to receive a decision in under 60 days. That said, the process works the same as at the disability application level in this sense: it is impossible to predict how long a case may take, though, typically, most cases are delayed as a result of how long it takes an examiner to obtain the medical records.
To file a reconsideration request, a person who has been denied should immediately contact their social security office after receiving a notice of denial on their application. The appeal period is 60 days, plus an additional five days that is given by SSA to account for mail time.
Note: If the individual is represented by a disability attorney or non-attorney disability representative, they should contact that individual's office to have the appeal filed.
Level III: Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge - Claimants who have been denied at the reconsideration appeal may request a disability hearing.
As with the reconsideration appeal, the hearing request is submitted by the claimant or their representative to the Social Security office where the claim was first started.
Unlike the reconsideration, however, the case is not transferred to disability determination services, but, rather, to the hearing office that has control for the area (hearing offices are known as ODAR, the office of disability adjudication and review).
Once the case has been transferred to the hearing office, it will usually take a number of months before the claimant receives notification that a hearing has been scheduled. Because there is usually a long interval between the conclusion of the reconsideration appeal and the holding of a disability hearing, this will typically mean that the file will only have outdated medical records.
Since Social Security requirements are that the claimant must present at least some medical evidence that is recent (not older than 90 days), it will up to the claimant or their representative to obtain medical record updates.
Ideally, among this gathering of evidence, there should a medical source statement from a physician who is familiar with the claimant.
See: Should you get a Statement from a Personal Physician for your SSD or SSI Disability Case?
The disability hearing level affords the best chance of receiving a Social Security Disability award or SSI disability award for a claimant who has been denied at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels.
Disability hearing decisions
Hearing decisions are made by ALJs, or administrative law judges at ODAR, the office of disability adjudication and review. Decisions issued by judges may be received in as little as several weeks following a hearing. However, it is not unusual to wait for a decision for several months, particularly if the hearing office in question has large backlogs.
Representation in Connecticut tends to increase the chance of receiving an approval at this level of the appeal system and unrepresented claimants will typically be completely unaware of how to interpret the medical and vocational information that is in their file, as well as how and why their claim was denied at prior levels.
Hearings, like reconsideration appeals, must be requested within 60 days--plus 5 additional days for mailing documents--of the claimant having received their last denial (which, in this case, would be the denial of the reconsideration appeal).
Note: The hearing offices in Connecticut average a hearing approval rate better than 54 percent which is better than the national average of 50 percent. The hearing office in New Haven CT, however, approves 57.5 percent of claims brought before ALJs, while the Hartford CT hearing office approves 51.4 percent of claims heard at that particular hearing office.
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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