Becoming disabled is something that most individuals never want to imagine about. Unfortunately, it can happen when you least expect it.
But did you know that if you become disabled and live in Alabama, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance?
While SSI and SSDI are both federal government programs administered by the Social Security Administration, there is more to it in Alabama.
So, if you have developed a disability and live in Alabama, you need to know your options.
What Is Supplemental Security Income?
The term Supplemental Security Income (SSI) refers to needs-based program that offers financial assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources. In order to be eligible for SSI in Alabama, you must:
- Be disabled or blind
- Have limited income and resources
- Be a U.S. citizen or national, or in some cases, a legal alien
- Be younger than 65 (your spouse’s age does not affect your eligibility)
To learn more about SSI and whether you may qualify, visit the Social Security Administration’s website or contact your local Social Security office.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a disability program funded through payroll taxes. It mainly focuses on individuals who have worked in the past and paid into the system. To be eligible for SSDI in Alabama, you must:
- Be disabled or blind
- Have limited income and resources
- Be a U.S. citizen or national
- Worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security to qualify (this is usually ten years)
To learn more about SSDI and whether you may qualify, visit the Social Security Administration’s website or contact your local Social Security office.
What Is Different About Getting Social Security in Alabama?
There are a few things that make getting Social Security in Alabama different from other states.
First, if you live in Alabama and become disabled, you may be able to get help from the Alabama Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). DRS is a state agency that provides services and support to disabled individuals so that they can live independently.
If you are eligible for DRS services, you will be assigned a case manager who will work with you to develop a plan to meet your needs. This plan may include job training, transportation, and housing assistance.
Another difference is that in Alabama, SSI and SSDI benefits are not payable to anyone confined in a public institution, like a prison or mental hospital.
Finally, if you live in Alabama and receive SSI or SSDI benefits, you may also be eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is a state-run program that provides health insurance to low-income individuals.
How Is the Appeals Process in Alabama?
You need to keep in mind that a new step was added to the appeals process in Alabama in 2019: reconsideration. It means that there are now four steps to the appeals process in the state. The four steps are:
1. Reconsideration Request
Once you have filed your first application and it is denied by Disability Determination Services (DDS), you can request for a different examiner at DDS to review your disability claim.
2. Administration Law Judge Hearing
If you are still denied, you can request an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. The ALJ is an independent decision-maker who will review your claim and decide.
During the hearing, the judge will carefully review any new evidence presented and the decision by DDS. Unfortunately, hearing times in Alabama are typically over a year.
3. Appeals Council Review
If you don’t agree with the ALJ’s decision, you’re free to ask the Appeals Council to revisit your case. The Appeals Council is a group of experienced Social Security judges who will look at your claim and decide whether the ALJ’s decision was correct.
4. Federal Court Review
The final step in the appeals process is to file a lawsuit in federal court. This step is very rare, as most claims are resolved before they get here.
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Alabama SSDI Hearing Wait Times & Approval by Office
As mentioned above, the average wait time for hearings in Alabama is one year. The state has four hearing offices. The average hearing time refers to how long it takes when you first ask for a hearing and when that hearing actually happens.
The average disposition time refers to how long it takes from when the hearing request is received to when a decision is made.
According to the latest data from the Social Security Administration, as of March 2020, the average disposition time for hearings in Alabama was:
- Huntsville: 275 days
- Mobile: 281 days
- Montgomery: 273 days
- Tuscaloosa: 282 days
These average wait times and the relatively low approval rates highlight the importance of having a qualified representative such as an attorney working on your case.
Office of Hearings Operations
The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) is mandated to handle all appeals hearings for disability claims in Alabama. OHO offices are located in Mobile, Birmingham, Florence, and Montgomery. To find your hearing office, call the regional head office at (404)562-1182.
Disability Determination Services Office
The state’s Disability Determination Services office is mandated with deciding whether you are disabled enough to receive the benefits or not. Typically, the office will evaluate your claim based on Social Security’s rules.
Once your initial application is complete, all questions about your disability claim case should be directed to the DDS office. DDS offices are in Birmingham and Mobile. The contact for the Birmingham office is (205)989-2100, while that of Mobile is (251)433-2820.
What Questions Should I Ask About Social Security in Alabama?
Here are some of the questions you need to ask about Social Security in Alabama:
- How long will it take to get a hearing?
- How often do ALJs approve claims?
- What is the average disposition time for hearings in Alabama?
- Where are the OHO offices located?
- How can I contact the DDS office in Birmingham?
- How can I contact the DDS office in Mobile?
- Who decides if I am disabled enough to receive benefits?
SSI Disability Payments in Alabama
If your claim is approved, you can receive a maximum of $771 for individuals and $1,157 per couple. These are monthly payments, and whether you receive the full amount or not will mostly depend on your income.
Besides SSI and SSDI, Alabama also offers additional payments to beneficiaries, including home health care payments.
If you are receiving independent home life care services, you will receive an additional $60 for individuals and $120 for couples. The same amount applies if you are receiving specialized treatment.
Social Security Lawyer in Alabama
When it comes to filing for Social Security benefits in Alabama, you need to understand that the process can be a bit complicated.
This is why you need the services of an experienced Social Security lawyer to guide you through the process and increase your chances of getting approved for benefits.
A good Social Security lawyer will help you with all aspects of your claim, from the initial application to the hearing stage. They will also ensure that you receive the maximum benefits you are entitled to.
If you think you need the help of a Social Security lawyer, we can help. We will put you in touch with a qualified Alabama lawyer who can help you with your claim.
Contact us today to get started!