Applying for Disability in Georgia
How to apply and qualify for SSD, SSI in Georgia (GA)
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 - Individuals applying for disability in Georgia will typically have less than a 30 percent chance of being approved for benefits. The high rate of denial necessitates that the majority of claimants will need to file one or more appeals in order to eventually receive disability benefits.
Claimants who cases satisfy the Social Security Administration's definition of disability may be determined eligible to receive ongoing monthly benefits under either the title 2 Social Security Disability program, or the title 16 SSI disability program (or both programs if the claim is concurrent).
The qualifications for disability benefits, however, are the same regardless of program, and, from a case-processing standpoint, there is literally no difference in how a case is handled.
As in all states, the requirements for disability in Georgia are mandated by a federal, standardized system. In this system, disability claims are usually initiated at Social Security field offices and then transferred to a disability examiner at a separate state agency for processing.
Filing for disability in Georgia
Starting a claim involves first contacting a local Social Security office and setting an appointment time for a disability interview. The interview is normally conducted in person between the claimant and a Social Security Administration claims representative; however, for individuals who will have difficulty traveling to a a field office, or would simply prefer not to have an in-person interview, the interview may be conducted over the phone.
The purpose of the disability interview will be for the claimant to provide information about the following:
A) Their medical treatment (including their diagnosed conditions, physical and mental symptoms, the names and addresses of doctors and facilities where treatment was provided, dates of treatment, and any specialized testing they might have undergone)
B) Their Work history (in cases where the applicant is a child filing for disability, academic information will often be used in place of vocational work history information).
The work history should include a listing of all work performed within the last 15 years as this is the period which SSA deems relevant. The history should include titles of jobs and descriptions of work completed since a disability examiner will use this information to identify each job and the physical and mental requirements of the job.
This information will be used to ascertain if the claimant still has the ability to return to their past work (which can form the basis for a denial of benefits). This information will also be used to determine if the claimant has the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The disability determination
After a claim is taken at a Social Security office, it will be transferred to DDS, or disability determination services, the agency that renders decisions on claims. At the Georgia DDS, the case will be given to a disability examiner who will evaluate the medical history and work history (or school, achievement, or testing records for a child) and then render a decision.
A decision on an application for disability in Georgia can generally be expected within three to four months from the date of filing, though claims that involve recent surgery may take longer (since the claim may be deferred during the claimant's recovery period), as well as cases in which the claimant is sent to several consultative medical examinations that have been scheduled and paid for by SSA in order to provide additional medical evidence.
The high rate of denial in Georgia (73 percent as of recent statistics) and other states at the initial claim level is mediated by the fact that if a claimant pursues their case to the level of a hearing before an administrative law judge, they will stand a much higher likelihood of receiving a Social Security Disability Award or SSI award.
Level II: Request for Reconsideration - The reconsideration is the first appeal that a claimant who has been denied on a disability application in Georgia may file. It is conducted in exactly the same manner, though by a different disability examiner. The standard disability criteria and the qualifications for approval remain the same. Reconsiderations must be filed within 60 days of the date of the first denial, though SSA will also allow an additional five days for mailing of documents.
Claimants should realize that the chance of being denied on a reconsideration appeal in Georgia is actually higher than on the initial claim. This mirrors other states.
A small percentage of these appeals are generally approved and individuals who are again denied at this level may file a second appeal for an administrative law judge disability hearing.
Things to keep in mind about the reconsideration: 1) Reconsideration decisions usually happen faster because most of the information has previously been gathered, 2) Reconsiderations have a higher rate of denial, 3) A reconsideration is unlikely to be approved unless new and compelling evidence comes to light during this appeal, 3) Completing the reconsideration phase allows a hearing to be requested.
Level III: Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge - The disability hearing is the second appeal in the Social Security Disability appeal system. This appeal must also be requested within 60 days of the date of the prior denial.
The disability hearing process is similar to the first two steps of the disability claim process in that decisions may be made on the basis of satisfying a listing (in the Social Security Disability list of impairments) or on the basis of a medical vocational allowance, whereby the determination is made that the claimant cannot perform their past work or any other type of work.
The fundamental differences between the Social Security Hearing level and the first two levels of the system are that the decision is made by an administrative law judge whose decisions are independently made (unlike a disability examiner who is subject to direct supervision and quality control), and that, at the hearing, the Social Security Administration no longer gathers evidence for the case.
At this level, all record gathering becomes the responsibility of the claimant and/or their disability representative (who may be a Social Security Attorney or non-attorney representative).
Since most hearings occur several months after a hearing has been requested, it becomes obvious that preparation for the hearing is crucial, particulary since the medical records that are already in the file will have become dated in the interceding period.
Note: An approval on a disability claim cannot be made unless the claimant's file contains at least some recent medical evidence. SSA defines recent as records not older than 90 days.
Qualifying for disability at a hearing
Hearings use the same qualifications for disability as the lower levels of the system. The requirements for receiving benefits are that an individual must have sufficient limitations that rule out the ability to engage in substantial and gainful work activity.
This is proven chiefly through medical record documentation that establishes an RFC, or residual functional capacity, rating.
However, the work history is equally important. And it is for this reason that the judge in a disability case will often decide to have a medical expert and/or a vocational expert appear at the hearing to provide expert testimony.
In such cases, the utilitarian value of disability representation becomes more apparent as the representative will respond to the expert and cross-examine the expert.
Note: There are several Social Security hearing offices in Georgia. While their average award rate is 54.9 percent, the hearings offices in Georgia vary from a low of 42.7 percent to a high of 59.7 percent. (Disability award rates for the various hearing offices in Georgia listed near the bottom of the page).
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.
Most popular topics on SSDRC.com
Social Security Disability in North Carolina
Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability
Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI
Advice to Win SSD and SSI Benefit Claims
Social Security Disability SSI Questions
What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?
How to get disability for depression
Getting disability for fibromyalgia
SSI disability for children with ADHD
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips
More Social Security Disability SSI Questions
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
Individual Questions and Answers
Rates of Approval for Individual Social Security Hearing Offices in Georgia
Atlanta GA downtown hearing office - disability award rate of 57.6 percent
Atlanta GA North hearing office - disability award rate of 59.7 percent
Augusta GA hearing office - disability award rate of 53.6 percent
Covington GA hearing office - disability award rate of 57.3 percent
Macon GA hearing office - disability award rate of 42.7 percent
Savannah hearing office - disability award rate of 51.1 percent