Successfully Applying for Disability Benefits in Oklahoma

Applying for Disability in Oklahoma

How to apply and qualify for SSD, SSI in Oklahoma (OK)

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 - An application for disability in Oklahoma will generally stand a 28-32 percent chance of being awarded. The high rate of denial generally requires most claimants to pursue appeals before meeting the requirements for disability under the SSD or SSI program.

To file for disability, you may use the Social Security Administration's online process or contact a local field office. Applying for disability through a local Social Security office will be the preferred method since it allows for a person-to-person disability application interview to be conducted.

By comparison, a clear disadvantage of the online process is that questions cannot be asked of the claims representative or CR. The CR is the Social Security employee who is responsible for conducting the intake portion of the claim, and then transferring the claim to a disability examiner (at the state DDS, or disability determination services, agency) who will make the medical determination for the claim.

A second disadvantage of the online process is that an SSI disability application cannot be taken online. Claimants will not know in advance if their claim will involve SSI, SSD, or both Social Security Disability and SSI in the form of a concurrent claim; therefore, the online process may not be productive for many claimants.

After contacting a local Social Security office, an appointment will be set for a disability application interview. The purpose of the interview is for the claimant to supply all the information that is necessary to process the claim. Some of this will involve identification information and documentation regarding non-medical eligibility criteria (for example, documentation regarding income and assets).

However, the primary information that will be obtained from the claimant during the disability interview will regard the claimant's medical history and work history. So that important information will not be omitted, a person filing for disability should complete both histories prior to the disability application interview.

The Medical History

Concerning the medical treatment history, the claimant should provide a list of all diagnosed medical conditions, the names and addresses of all hospitals, clinics, and doctor's offices, and the names of all treating physicians.

It cannot stressed enough how important it is to supply complete information since the disability examiner who receives the case from the Social Security office will use this information to send out requests for medical records.

How long it takes to receive the records may depend on the completeness and accuracy of the information. Note: The single largest delay on most requirements of a listing in the Social Security Disability list of impairments.

B) The types and severity of the claimant's functional limitations (physical, mental, or both physical and mental) which might lead to a medical vocational allowance.

A medical vocational allowance is a decision in which the determination is made that the claimant cannot return to substantial and gainful work activity either in the performance of their past work, or in the performance of some type of other work for which their skills and education would otherwise suit them.

The Work History

Concerning the work history, the claimant should provide all employment information for the 15 year period prior to becoming disabled. This should include all job titles, detailed descriptions of all work performed, and the date ranges for all jobs held.

The work history information will strongly come into play if the claimant is not found to have a condition that meets the requirements of a Social Security Disability listing, which is usually the case, and the disability examiner must then compare the claimant's level of functional limitations to the demands of their past work (to see if they retain the ability to return to their past work) and their work skill levels (to see if they possess the ability to transition to some type of other work).

The disability determination process

After the disability application is filed at a local Social Security office, the claim will be assigned to a disability examiner. The examiner will obtain the needed medical records and evaluate them, usually in conjunction with the work history. During the processing of a disability case, the examiner may conduct one or more calls to the claimant to clarify details regarding their work or medical treatment.

Very often, the examiner will call the claimant to get information regarding their activities of daily living. In many instances, as well, the claimant will be asked to go to a consultative medical examination, e.g. a Social Security medical exam. This is usually done if the claimant's records are not recent or do not address one or more of the claimant's conditions.

Disability decisions at the application level are usually made in 90-120 days. Claimants are notified by mail, as are their representatives if they have disability representation. During the processing of a disability claim, it is not unwise to make periodic status update calls to the Social Security office or to the disability examiner to check of the case.

Qualifying for disability in Oklahoma as a child

Filing for disability as a child claimant in Oklahoma involves the same process at all levels of the system. However, while medical records are evaluated to determine the outcome of a claim, there is, obviously, no examination of work history information. Child disability claims instead rely on an examination of both medical records and typically school records to determine if the child is on-pace (academically, socially, developmentally, etc) with his or her peers. The benchmark for being on-pace is the ability to engage in age-appropriate activities.

  • Disability application denial rate: 75 percent.
  • Disability application approval rate: 25 percent.

    Level II: Request for Reconsideration - Reconsideration is the first appeal that is available to a person who has been denied on a disability application. The requirements and qualifications are the same at this level.

    As with the disability application, the decision will be made by a disability examiner at the state disability agency (DDS) who relies on information submitted by the claimant for the purpose of gathering evidence to process the claim.

    Note: Claimants should be careful to indicate any change in their condition on the disability report form when this appeal is submitted. This would include any new diagnosed conditions, any worsening of their symptoms, and, of course, any recent treatment. This will put the reconsideration examiner on notice to obtain these records.

    The rate of denial at the reconsideration appeal level tends to be even higher than the disability application level. Therefore, the odds of qualifying for disability benefits at this level is somewhat unlikely unless new evidence is brought into the case.

    Having said that, though, all claimants who are denied on an application should file a request for a reconsideration simply to get to the disability hearing level where the odds of winning benefits increase substantially, particularly when the claimant or their representative presents a solid argument for approval on a claim that is in line with Social Security regulations and rulings.

    At all levels of the Social Security Disability and SSI system, the appeals process will work in the same manner. Therefore, a claimant should do the following regardless of the appeal level their claim is at:

    1. To start an appeal, a claimant may contact their local Social Security office and request that the paperwork be mailed out. For the appeal to be timely, the appeal paperwork must be received by SSA within 60 days--plus an additional five days that is given for mailing time--of the date of the denial. The denial date is usually stamped in the upper right hand corner of the denial letter.

    Note: the appeal cannot simply be mailed and postmarked by this date. It must actually be received by Social Security by the 65th day.

    2. A copy of the appeal paperwork should be kept in the event that the submitted appeal is not received by Social Security.

    3. Within 10-14 days of mailing the appeal, the claimant should contact a followup status call to the Social Security office to verify that the appeal was received.

    4. If the claimant is represented by a disability attorney or non-attorney disability representative, that individual will do the appeal. However, a claimant who receives a denial notice should contact their representative to ensure that both parties have received the notice, thus avoiding the possibility of a late appeal filing. A late appeal situation can easily mean having to start over with a new disability application, a new filing date, and the potential loss of disability back pay.

  • Reconsideration appeal denial rate: 92.5 percent.
  • Reconsideration appeal approval rate: 7.5 percent.

    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

  • Disability Hearing denial rate: 54.8 percent
  • Disability Hearing approval rate: 45.2 percent

    Note: The disability award rate for hearings held in the state of Oklahoma is an average statistic. The disability award rates for the individual disability hearing offices is as follows: the McAlester OK Hearing office has a disability award rate of 46.1 percent; the Oklahoma City OK Hearing office has a disability award rate of 43 percent; the Tulsa OK Hearing office has a disability award rate of 47.4 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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