Biggest Mistakes #3 - Or, "The SSA: Who are those guys?"

How old are you?

If you don't know who they are, you will never know how to deal with them. The SSA has several different branches. The Field Offices provide direct customer service at the local level. They have a variety of duties. They help people get new Social Security cards. They can give you a benefit verification letter. They should help you figure out if benefit payments were sent. The do things with new applications and appeals. There is a big difference between these two statements. 1) They help people file applications; and 2) They file applications. The difference is the word "help." The field office staff - most of whom are very nice, polite hard working people - are not advocates. Read that again. They will help you file the application, meaning they will take the exact information you give them and type it in the computer. If you tell them that your condition is "Juvenile Diabetes" and what you have is an amputated leg, they will type in "Juvenile Diabetes" period. Of course, if they actually see you, they should list amputation, but I wouldn't guarantee it. (I had a client who filed on his own 30 days prior to an amputation due to juvenile diabetes and be denied. I don't know whether he was there in person or on the phone. But somehow, "amputation" was not listed as one of his medical conditions. He waited 2 years before he did anything, but we got it resolved fairly quickly.) The Analysts work for the Department of Disability Determination Services (DDS, for short.) See Big Mistakes #1. Note the words disability determination that means they determine whether a person is disabled. The Hearing Office is - surprise - where the hearings are held. There are Analysts, Lawyer Assistants, Administrative Law Judges and all manner of support staff. The full name is Office of Disability Adjudication & Review. Anything that goes into the field office has to be scanned in and filed electronically in the right place. It's apparently harder to do than it sounds because for whatever reason, sometimes hard copies get delivered in the front door, but don't go out through the electronic portal. (See Big Mistakes #2)

The Payment Center will process the benefit payments for claimants who paid FICA taxes. The National Call Service Center (800) 772-1213 is a great place to actually speak with a person about any question you may have if you're a person who doesn't want to learn from a website. When the machine voice-guy asks why you are calling, just say "Agent, Agent, Agent" until he finally says: "Alright, let me see if I can get someone to help you with that." You may be on hold quite a while. If you are offered the opportunity to have them call you back rather than wait on hold, say yes. You will be called back right when they tell you. If you're reading this, you must like computers well enough. The SSA website www.ssa.gov is a GREAT resource. Its search engine is easy to use and the content is laid out in plain language.

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