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The Michigan Social Security Disability Process and Its Pitfalls

  • Published: 2010-07-17 (Revised/Updated 2010-10-12) : Adler Stilman P.L.L.C..
  • Synopsis: The first step in applying for disability benefits is filing a disability claim

Main Document

Michigan residents waiting for the Social Security Administration to decide on their benefits face a backlog among the nation's worst. Qualified aid can make the process easier and faster.

When illness or injury strikes, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is a grueling uphill battle to obtain disability benefits. Yet, for many workers facing an already trying time in their lives, bureaucratic red tape keeps Social Security disability benefits far out of reach. For economically depressed states, sheer numbers keep the system bogged down. In Michigan, some 40,000 citizens are waiting for the Social Security Administration to decide on their pleas for benefits, a backlog among the nation's worst. But, while seeking Social Security disability is a lengthy process, the proper assistance can make it less daunting and more likely to result in a favorable outcome.

Application for Disability Benefits

The first step in applying for disability benefits is filing a disability claim. This can be done by a designated representative (attorney), online at the government's Social Security website, over the phone by appointment, or at a local Social Security office. Detailed and accurate information is obtained through a series of forms that catalog, among other things, your medical records, laboratory and test results, and a summary of the kind of work you did. After a complete application is filed, the Social Security Administration reviews the paperwork to ensure the basic requirements for disability approval are met. Then, the application is sent to a state Disability Determination Services office, where the disability decision is made. Applicants are notified of the decision by mail.

If benefits are denied, you can still pursue your claim. In fact, in Michigan, the initial application denial rate in 2006 was 71 percent, and over a quarter of those denied were eventually successful in obtaining benefits. If you disagree with a denial, you may appeal the decision. In some states (not Michigan currently), an appeal first goes through a reconsideration before entering the hearing stage, but in others (including Michigan), appeals go straight to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, where an administrative law judge reviews the appeal. The wait time for a hearing can be very long, anywhere from 12-24 months depending on the office assigned the case. Appeals of a decision at the hearing stage are made to the Appeals Council, which can deny the appeal, remand the case for another hearing, or find you disabled. The only recourse for a loss at the Appeals Council is to file a civil action in United States District Court.

Improvements in the Michigan Social Security Disability Process

The key frustration for many seeking SSD benefits is the overwhelming amount of documentation to start the claim and then the seemingly endless wait for benefits. At every step, red tape and an overflow of claims slow the process. So why do Social Security Disability claims experience such a slowdown? The slowdown has been attributed to the crunch of cases being filed as a result of the poor economy and the increased stress created by aging baby boomers who are developing chronic illnesses and can no longer force themselves to postpone retirement. States, especially those like Michigan under the heaviest economic pressure, simply cannot process disability determinations quickly or effectively.

Michigan is taking some steps to address the backlog. Two new in-state offices have recently been opened to process claims, and Michigan residents have been allowed to appeal their cases to administrative law judges in less-backlogged states through video hearings.

A more controversial plan includes implementing reconsideration by local offices. This step was eliminated in Michigan in 1999 in an attempt to reduce backlog, but may have actually increased it, as it forced appeals to go before a bank of administrative law judges immediately. Officials believe their plan to bring reconsideration back will lead to a significant number of cases being approved at that step, thus cutting the number of appeals. Others, including some local Michigan attorneys, are less optimistic, noting that the same people who denied an initial claim are unlikely to approve it the second time around and that reviews typically rubber stamp the decisions already made.

How an Attorney Experienced in Social Security Disability Can Help You

Whatever measures Michigan is taking, at the moment the wait for disability benefits can be many months long. Furthermore, the backlog means that more claims are denied initially after cursory review (about half of applicants denied do not pursue their claim further).

But, as dire as the situation may seem at first, everything can go much smoother with the assistance of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney who has navigated the process time and again. An experienced attorney will be able to prepare your application and gather evidence to make your claim more likely to be approved (an invaluable asset, as denial slows the process considerably). Even if your claim is initially denied, your attorney can help you untangle the appeals process, increasing your chances of receiving benefits as quickly as possible. And, most Social Security disability attorneys get paid only if they win a case, with funds typically being paid out of any back pay or accrued benefits.

There are many challenges to seeking Social Security Disability benefits. But, with the proper assistance, and a little patience, you may be closer than you think to the benefits you deserve.

Article provided by Adler Stilman P.L.L.C. Visit us at

Related Information:

  1. Filing a Claim for Social Security Disability Benefits in Michigan
  2. Social Security Disability Information for Persons with Disabilities
  3. Social Security Disability United States

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