Will I Qualify For Disability Benefits in Missouri?
Qualifying for disability benefits with Social Security does not depend on the state you reside in. Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security disability (SSI) are federal disability programs. This means that the disability qualification process is the same in Missouri as North Carolina.
In order to qualify for disability in Missouri, you must file a disability application with Social Security. You can do this with your local Social Security office by phone or in person; or you can file your Social Security Disability application online.
If you file for disability online, you will not be able to file an application for SSI disability. You can only indicate that you wish to file for SSI and that requires a contact from Social Security. Generally, if they are unable to reach you to get your SSI disability claim they will send you an 'informal' denial. Consequently, you will save time by contacting your local Social Security office to complete your disability application if you wish to file for SSI disability benefits.
Missouri has thirty-two Social Security offices. If you are not sure where your local Social Security office is located, you can use the SSA field office locator found on the official Social Security website.
If you chose to file your disability claim in person or by phone, a claims representative, or CR, will determine if you meet the requirements of Social Security Disability and/or SSI disability, and get your medical information and work history. Once your disability interview is complete, your disability claim will be ready to be sent to a Missouri Disability Determination Services office for a medical disability decision.
The state of Missouri has a decentralized Disability Determination Services, which means they have more than one office. Currently, the Missouri DDS has offices in St. Louis, Springfield, Kansas City, Jefferson City, and Cape Girardeau.
Disability decisions in Missouri
Disability examiners at the various DDS offices are responsible for processing disability claims for Social Security. Your disability claim will be assigned to a disability examiner when it arrives there from the Social Security office where the claim was filed.
The examiner will send for medical records from the medical sources you provided at your disability interview. They will also schedule consultative examinations if you do not have current medical information (meaning medical records no more than ninety days old), if you have no medical information at all (because you have never been treated for one or more of your conditions), or your medical records are insufficient to make a disability determination. Once they--the disability examiner--have enough current medical information, they will make their determination.
The determination will, of course, either be a denial, or an approval that is made in one of two different ways: by satisfying the requirements of a disability listing, or through a medical vocational allowance.
In either case, the claimant will have to prove (through their medical evidence and/or vocational evidence, i.e. their work history information) that they have at least one medical condition that satisfies the Social Security Administration definition of disability.
If your initial disability claim is denied, DDS will mail you an official denial notice. If you qualify for Social Security or SSI disability, your disability claim will be sent back to your local Social Security office for final adjudication and you will be sent a formal award notice.
If you are approved for SSI disability you will also have to have an end line interview to verify that you still meet the income and resource limits of the program.
If you are denied for disability in Missouri
The vast majority of all initial disability claims are denied in Missouri as in most states; approximately 70 percent. If you do not agree with your disability decision you should file an appeal.
The first level of the Social Security appeal process is a reconsideration appeal. The reconsideration appeal is sent back to the same DDS that denied your initial disability claim for a review. Your claim will be reviewed by a different examiner; however the same strict rules and guidelines apply. As you might imagine, there are very few reconsideration appeal approvals.
If you also receive a reconsideration appeal denial (this is likely since reconsideration appeals have an 80 percent-plus rate of denial), you should appeal your disability decision with a request for an administrative law judge disability hearing. This appeal involves a hearing before an administrative law judge at an Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The Missouri ODAR offices, or Social Security hearings offices, are located in St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield, and Creve Coeur.
The Missouri rate of approval for initial disability claims is 32.3 percent which is about the same as the national average of 32.1 percent. The reconsideration appeal approval rate is 17.1 percent and that is higher than the national average of 11.1 percent.
The higher reconsideration appeal approval rate may be the reason that Missouri's disability hearing approval rate of 53.7 is somewhat lower than the national average approval rate of 58.0 percent.
Note: The request for reconsideration appeal step is currently suspended in the state of Missouri as Missouri is one of 10 prototype states testing a system in which denied claims move immediately to the hearing level upon appeal. Reconsideration may be reinstated at some point and many consider this likely. In the meantime, a claimant who is denied on a disability application should request, and prepare, for a hearing before a federal administrative law judge.
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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