What is the process?
After you have completed the application, your file folder is sent to a department within the State of Florida called the Office of Disability Determinations (ODD). There, your medical records are ordered. Employees of ODD will send you additional forms to complete. I strongly recommend copying these completed forms before returning them in case they are lost. In addition to completing these forms, I also recommend that you get statements from family, friends and past employers in the form of letters explaining how they see your disabling conditions. I can assist with recommendations as to the kinds of information ODD is looking for in such letters. These statements/letters do not need to be formal, nor do they need to be notarized.
After the above information is gathered, ODD has your entire file folder reviewed by a doctor. Your claim is then either granted or denied. This entire process can take from 6 to 12 months. If your disability claim is denied, you have 60 days within which to file an appeal.
If you file an appeal, this appeal is called a RECONSIDERATION. The same process takes place as in the initial application review, but your file folder is reviewed by a different Aadjudicator@. You may end up filling out the exact same forms as before and, again, please make copies of the completed forms before sending them in to ODD. The reconsideration process often takes from 2 to 4 months. You have a much greater chance of being denied at this level than at the first, or initial, application level. If you are denied during the reconsideration, you then have an additional 60 days within which to appeal.
This next step is called a REQUEST FOR HEARING. This is your request to have a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. This is usually your best chance of winning your claim for disability benefits. All of your medical records will be supplied to the Administrative Law Judge before the hearing. You will have a live hearing with the judge and sometimes there will be other experts in attendance. Unfortunately, it can take quite awhile to get a date for such a hearing. In January of 2009, it was taking about 20 months from the time of the Request for Hearing to actually have the hearing date.
If your disability benefits claim is denied at a hearing, there are still two additional levels of appeal. We are now getting a bit beyond the scope of this brief article and I would suggest that you discuss this further with me, if you would like.
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