Dei:  Welcome to Pennsylvania Law TV. Today we will be talking about how to obtain Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security Disability is a government program that provides compensation and benefits to disabled people. It is not a government hand out but rather a type of insurance that working people pay into all their lives and are entitled to benefit from if they become disabled. Disability lawyer Valeen Hykes is with us today to talk about social security disability benefits and some of the most common questions she gets from her clients. So Valeen thanks for being here today.

Valeen: Thank you for having me.

Dei: Well Valeen what makes someone eligible for social security disability benefits?

Valeen: Well there is a lot that goes into it. There is a 6 step sequential process. That’s the main thing that the judges use when making their determination as to whether somebody is eligible or not. But the main categories of course are your work history because we are dealing with disability benefits and not the supplemental. The supplemental is more for need based or young children, but the disability benefits is based on your work history. Your work history, actually what you do is you earn credits based on your work history and that turns into something that’s called your date last insured, so basically the amount of time that you work will make you insured for benefits and then as long as you’re not working substantially gainfully employed at a certain period of time, then you will be eligible for benefits during that time, of course taking into consideration your medical conditions.

Dei: And how does someone apply for social security disability benefits?

Valeen: The best way to do it is I would say to do that online. You can make an appointment at your local social security office as well. Sometimes people prefer to do that, they have a little bit more guidance if they’re not so comfortable with using the computer. My recommendation is to do it electronically and that’s actually the way that we do it for our clients.

Dei: Now what if they are denied what should they do next?

Valeen: The next thing to do if you’re denied is appeal as soon as possible. At the initial application stage you only have 60 days to file that appeal so you want to make sure that you get that in no matter what. There is a 5 day period there, grace period that they usually give you, but I always recommend not to wait and let that period lapse.

Dei: And how likely is it that your claim will ultimately be approved?

Valeen: We have actually been very successful at the initial application level. A lot of times what we are hearing from clients is that they are denied at that stage, we didn’t used to do claims at the initial application stage but we have had a lot of success doing that. I will tell you there are a lot of denials as I said before, but we kind of know the things that we need to put into the initial application and the things that we need to focus on in order to get those claims approved at the initial stage.

Dei: And overhaul how long does this process usually take?

Valeen: Well it depends on the office that you’re dealing with. One of the offices that we deal with the most is the Wilkes Barre office and the initial application stage at that office usually takes about 5 to 6 months to get a decision. After that time you have 60 days to appeal in the event that it does go to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. It could take 15 to 18 months to actually be seen in front of a judge.

Dei: Valeen if someone has specific questions about social security disability benefits how can they reach your office?

Valeen: They can reach us at www.OConnorLaw.com or by calling us at 1-800-518-4Law.

Dei: Valeen thank you for your time today.

Valeen: Thank you for having me.

Dei: Until next time this is Dei Lynam for Pennsylvania Law TV.