The above question is one frequently asked by my clients when they have been out of work for a significant period of time after a work-related injury. While the answer certainly varies depending on the circumstance, as a general rule I encourage my workers’ compensation clients to apply for Social Security Disability benefits once they know they will be out of work for at least 12 months, and feel that they cannot return to their past job, or any other type of work. While the Social Security regulations do not require a person to be out of work for 12 months before applying for benefits, the regulations do state that your disability must be significant, and that you must prove that you are expected to be out of work for at least 12 months. Practically in most cases you will be turned down for Social Security Benefits if you apply before you have been out of work for 12 months. However that does NOT mean you have to wait the full 12 months before you apply for benefits. If you are not approved in the initial stage, there are several levels of appeals, and this process can take several months, if not years. It is best to get started sooner rather than later, and get your case in line for a Hearing if that becomes necessary. In fact the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives recently published an article in the January 2012 Social Security Forum that states that once the application for Social Security Disability benefits gets to the Hearing Office in South Jersey, the average processing time is 344 days. That same article states that the fastest place to process a disability claim is if you live in Shreveport, LA (172 days) and the slowest is St. Louis, Mo (476 days). The national average to process a claim for Social Security Disability benefits at the Hearing office is 356 days. In any event, there is no reason to delay applying if you do not feel you are going to be able to return to any type of work.
At Stark and Stark, the same attorney can handle both your Workers’ Compensation case and Social Security Disability appeal. Please call us for a free consultation at 856-874-4443.