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SSA Disability - when can I talk to someone?

Recently on our forum we had a user ask, “When can I talk to someone at the SSA about my SSDI or SSI application?” This question comes from a general misunderstanding of how the SSA process works. So below we will review how the SSDI and the SSI process generally works and why you may NEVER talk to anyone at the SSA office.

First step in the SSA process

The first step in the disability process is to complete the disability application. This can be done online, in-person at a local office or on the phone. If you complete the application online, assuming you submitted all of the proper information, the SSA will not need to call you. They will simply review your nonmedica status and determine if you meet the most basic nonmedical requirement for SSDI or SSI benefits. If you do, they will send your application to the correct state Disability Determination Services Office (DDS). If you do not meet the nonmedical requirements they will send you an immediate denial notice.

At the DDS office your application will be evaluated and your medical information gathered to determine if you are disabled. It is at this step that the DDS may determine they do not have enough medical information to make a disability determination for your case and they will have you go see a Consultative Examiner. Contrary to popular belief this is not a good thing; this means you did not have sufficient medical records for them to make a disability determination.

After the Consultative Examination, the SSA will decide if you are disabled and send you a denial or approval letter. But you still will not talk to the SSA. They will make contact via letter only and you will have the opportunity to appeal the denial letter by filing a reconsideration appeal within 60 days from the date of the denial letter.

So can I call the SSA?

At any point in the process you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and ask them questions. They also may call you periodically or send additional forms for you to complete to substantiate your claim.

What if you want to meet with the SSA? You have the option at the application level to schedule a meeting with the SSA to discuss your application and apply for SSI or SSDI benefits in-person, but I fear many applicants expect too much from the SSA at this meeting. They will not complete your application for you and their help may be limited.

Keep in mind there were millions, yes millions, of disability applicants last year. The SSA simply does not have the staff to give extensive help to each applicant. If you need more help with the application process you can contact a firm who provides this service for a fee.

Why do you want to talk to the SSA?

I am never quite sure what most applicants want to say when they talk to the SSA. I suppose they are envisioning a chance to talk to someone and plead their case. If this is true, the best chance you will have to do this will be at an administrative hearing (the second level in the appeals process), but ideally, you would have sufficient medical evidence to prove you are disabled without having to file multiple denials. In an ideal world, your medical records will clearly indicate you are disabled and they will speak for themselves, without you having to plead your case.