Applying for Disability in Mississippi
How to apply and qualify for SSD, SSI in Mississippi (MS)
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 - Applying for disability in Mississippi is, in a sense, a multi-step process. Claims are initiated at local Social Security offices and are then handed off to the state disability agency (usually referred to as DDS, or disability determination services) where the case undergoes a medical evaluation by a disability claims examiner.
To file for Social Security Disability or SSI, a claimant may begin by using the SSA website. However, the online filing process does allow for an SSI application to be taken. Many claims, of course, will be for title 16 SSI disability benefits, or will involve SSI as a concurrent claim (in a concurrent claim, a disability application is taken in both the SSD and SSI programs).
Additionally, filing online eliminates the initial ability of the claimant to speak directly to the CR, or claims representative. The CR is responsible for performing the intake portion of the claim before it is transferred to a disability examiner. The disability examiner will rely on the information obtained by the CR during the disability application interview, therefore face-to-face communication between the claimant and the claims representative is important.
Qualifying for disability in Mississippi
The qualifications for receiving disability benefits in either the SSD (Social Security Disability) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits program are the same as in all states. Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration.
Having said that, for an individual to qualify for disability benefits in Mississippi may mean a higher likelihood of eventually having to present a case before a federal administrative law judge.
This is because while the chance of being denied on a disability application in Mississippi is somewhat in line with the majority of states and with the national average (nationwide, approximately 30-35 percent of claims are approved at the level of an application for disability), disability claims in the state are denied at an exceedingly high rate at the first appeal level (the request for reconsideration), making the second appeal practically a necessity.
Qualifying for disability benefits in either program will involve satisfying certain medical and non-medical requirements. The non-medical requirements refer to restrictions on earned income. For both SSD and SSI, a claimant cannot be working and earning more than what is considered to be a substantial and gainful income, otherwise known as SGA, or substantial gainful activity.
For SSI, however, there is an additional non-medical requirement that requires a claimant to have less than $2000 in countable assets. This is because SSI, a.k.a. title 16 benefits, is a need-based program, one that is available to claimants who are either not insured to receive title II SSD benefits, or are only eligible to receive a small monthly SSD check.
The medical requirements for a disability applicant mandate that their case must meet the SSA definition of disability.
The Social Security definition of disability states that they must have a severe medical condition--that may be physical or mental--and that this condition must last for at least one full year and be severe enough to prevent work activity at a level that would earn the claimant a substantial and gainful income.
How is the disability decision made in Mississippi
After an application for disability is taken at a Social Security office, the claim is transferred to the state disability agency. In most states, this agency is known as DDS, or disability determination services. At DDS, the claim is assigned to a disability examiner.
The examiner's first task will be to obtain medical records from all the treatment sources listed by the claimant at the time of application. This, of course, highlights why it is important for the claimant to supply detailed information regarding their sources.
By suppyling the full names and addresses of all hospitals and clinics, as well as the names of all treating physicians, the disability examiner working on the claim will A) have a higher likelihood of obtaining all the relevant medical records and B) have a higher likelihood of obtaining the records in a reasonable amount of time.
Note: Claimants, when submitting their medical treatment history at the time of application, should be careful to list not only recent treatment sources, but also older sources of treatment. This is because the disability examiner will have two goals. The first will be to determine whether or not the claimant is currently disabled. The second will be to determine how far back the claimant's disability may have begun.
This second goal concerns the issue of "onset". Onset directly affects how much in disability back pay a claimant may be eligible to receive.
After the requested medical records have been received, the examiner will review them to determine whether or not the claimant has a physical or mental condition that meets the disability requirements of a listing in the Social Security Disability list of impairments.
If the claimant does not have a condition that satisifies a listing, the examiner will review the medical records and the claimant's work history and apply a five step sequential evaluation process to see if the case can be approved in the form of a medical vocational allowance.
Disability applications for children
A child filing for disability in Mississippi will undergo the same standards of evaluation. However, the focus of determining the claimant's severity wil be on whether or not the child is capable of engaging in activities, academic or otherwise, that are appropriate to his or her age.
Most claims will not be approved at the initial claim, or disability application, level. Individuals who are denied, of course, should immediately request an appeal and may wish to consider seeking disability representation.
Level II: Request for Reconsideration - Individuals who are denied on an application for disability have the option of filing an appeal. This is advised in almost all cases, particularly since by the second appeal level, the disability hearing level, a claimant's chance of being awarded disability benefits will rise considerably.
The request for Reconsideration is made by contacting the Social Security office where the original disability application was filed.
Note: If the claimant is represented by a disability lawyer or non-attorney representative, this should not be necessary since the representative will have received a copy of the denial leter and will be on notice to file the appeal.
Having said that, claimants who are represented and receive a denial letter should probably contact their representative to make sure the representative received their copy of the letter, to avoid the possibility of a missed appeal deadline.
Claimants who are not represented should call their local Social Security office to request the appeal, and after receiving the forms, return them as quickly as possible.
The deadline for filing a reconsideration appeal, or any appeal, is 60 days from the date of the denial. Generally, the date a claim is denied is stamped in the upper right hand corner of the denial notification, or notice of disapproved claim.
A reconsideration will usually be denied and this is to be expected since the reconsideration process is an exact mirror of the disability application process. At each level, the qualifications for disability are the same and the decision will be made by a disability examiner at the state's DDS, or disability determination services, agency.
The examiner will use whatever medical evidence is gathered to determine if the claimant can be approved on the basis of meeting or equaling the requirements of a listed impairment (in the Social Security Disability list of impairments), or approved on the basis of a medical vocational allowance.
Reconsideration decisions usually take less time than decisions on disability applications. Most decisions at this level will be delivered in 4-8 weeks. Unfortunately, most reconsideration appeals are denied. In the majority of states, the denial rate easily exceeds 80 percent.
Most individuals who provide representation on disability claims (disability attorneys and non-attorney representatives) take this as a given and many will advise their clients that reconsideration is simply a necessary step to go through before being allowed to request a disability hearing
Level III: Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge - The disability hearing is the second Social Security appeal available to claimants and may be requested only after a reconsideration appeal has been denied.
Like all appeals, the hearing must be requested within 60 days of the date of the prior denial, but, ideally, should be requested immediately after receiving notification of the denial of the reconsideration appeal to avoid unnecessary case processing delays, as well as the possibility of a missed appeal deadline.
Basic facts about disability hearings
Note: There are multiple hearing offices in Mississippi and the disability hearing approval rate quoted above is the average for the state of Mississippi.
The Hattiesburg MS hearing office has a disability award rate of 44.6 percent, the Jackson MS hearing office has a disability award rate of 42.3 percent, and the Tupelo MS hearing office has a disability award rate of 51.3 percent. The approval rate for all hearings in the Social Security Administration's Region 4 is 53.7 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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