Applying for social security disability insurance (SSDI) in Tampa, Florida, is notoriously difficult and time-consuming. You’ve earned these benefits through years of hard work, yet you often have to prove you are in need of this kind of assistance. Here are some helpful resources for getting social security or re-applying after a rejection.
Applying for Benefits in Tampa
Last year, Hillsborough County had the third highest payout from social security, behind only Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Thousands of Floridians apply for SSDI each year, but the agency rejects many out of hand for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the rejection happens because the applicant was not eligible, but in many more cases it is simply a matter of an incorrect submission. The best way to receive the money you have earned is to apply correctly the first time around.
The application for social security disability insurance is the same across the U.S., but each state, has a different department that manages claims and applications. In Florida, it is the state health department that reviews applications and claims for SSDI. It is not possible to submit applications directly to the Florida Department of Health, but applicants can reach them in case there is an issue with an application.
You can submit applications either online or in person at your regional social security office. Appointments are generally required for applicants seeking to apply in person. It is also possible to apply by calling the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) phone number at 1-800-772-1213 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Deaf or hard of hearing applicants can call TTY 1-800-325-0778.
You will also need to submit documents to prove eligibility, including your birth certificate, proof of citizenship or lawful residence, financial tax documents – such as a W2 or tax return – and a disability report. The SSA tells applicants to apply as soon as possible, even if they do not have all of the documents immediately available. Documents can be submitted as the applicant gathers them.
The agency will generally request missing information, but failing to provide documents in a reasonable amount of time may cause your application to be rejected. The SSA offers resources for applicants, such as the disability report, which can help expedite the application review process, and a disability starter kit to allow you to prepare for the disability interview.
When you submit an application for social security disability in Florida, it goes to the state department of health for review. The state agency – as well as the SSA when it makes the final decision – looks at a few factors to determine eligibility. Most important is to meet the definition of disability as laid out by the SSA. In general, disability under the SSA refers to a condition that limits ability to work for a year or more.
In addition to meeting the definition of disability, applicants must also have worked enough in the recent past to earn work credits. Credits come from earning enough money to qualify for a contribution to your disability eligibility. In 2018, workers earn one credit for every $1,320 earned in wages or self-employment income, up to a maximum of four credits per year.
When you apply for disability, the administration looks at your work credits compared to your working life. For most workers, you will need 40 credits to be eligible for disability, with at least 20 earned in the last 10 years. Younger workers, however, require fewer credits – with those under 24 only needing six credits in the last three years.
Once you submit an application for disability, you enter the waiting period. This is the time in which the SSA and Florida Department of Health review your case and decide if you meet the requirements. Unfortunately, the wait time for a decision can be agonizing, and there is little that can be done to expedite the process.
The state department of health will carefully review your application, as well as any medical evidence and testimony submitted. They will look at your work history and credits to determine whether you have enough work credits to qualify for benefits.
The process used to determine disability begins with the agency asking if you are working. To qualify, you must either be entirely unemployed or earn on average less than $1,180 per month. Your condition also must play a role in your reduced income and decrease your earning potential now and in the future.
There is a list used by the SSA to standardize disability judgments. The list contains medical disabilities severe enough to qualify for federal benefits, but it is not necessarily comprehensive. If your condition is not on the list, they will attempt compare your condition with the list and determine if the two are comparable. If your condition is deemed less severe, the SSA will determine eligibility depending on the condition’s impact on your work life. Being unable to work as much as before, for example, may qualify. You also must be unable to do other work to earn a living.
Special cases exist for workers who are blind, or widows or widowers of disabled workers. Blind workers do not necessarily need to be unemployed to earn disability income. Anyone whose vision is or is worse than 20/200 is eligible for disability insurance, as long as his or her monthly income is no higher than $1,970. Blind applicants have both an easier time receiving disability, as well as a higher income threshold.
Widows and widowers may receive their deceased spouse’s benefits if he or she is in the 50- to 60-year-old age bracket. To claim survivor’s benefits, however, you must directly contact the SSA because there is no online application. Widows and widowers may also receive benefits if they are disabled.
List of Local Social Security Office and Information
Applying for disability benefits from social security in Florida processes through the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Disability Determinations. For Tampa-area residents, the main office of the state health department that handles disability claims is:
Department of Health, Division of Disability Determinations
PO Box 15550
Tampa, FL 33684-5550
The regional office for the federal Social Security Administration is located at:
4010 Gunn Highway
Tampa, FL 33618
Office hours are:
Monday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Tuesday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Wednesday 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Thursday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Be sure to call in advance to set up an appointment to apply for your disability benefits.
The Florida Department of Health handles applications for Florida residents, but most communication will come from the SSA directly, including your letters of acceptance or rejection.
Sometimes, the SSA rejects an application that is eligible. Workers can dispute the agency’s decision if they believe it to be incorrect. If the agency rejects your application for not meeting the SSA’s disability requirements, you can appeal the decision online. To do so, you will need to upload relevant medical information, tests, and documents to support your case. This is helpful if you have since seen a doctor for expert consultation to support your case.
You must submit an appeal within 60 days after you receive the rejection letter. Appeals must be in writing, online or over the phone. The appeals process ranges from simple reconsideration all the way through federal court decisions. Reconsideration is the simplest process, involving a review of your application by a new agent, who will decide the case as though it were a fresh application.
Following a failed reconsideration, you may request a hearing on your application. You may attend the hearing yourself or with a representative, but it is always best to attend in some form. An administrative judge reviews your case, and comes to a conclusion after interviews with witnesses and overseeing the evidence.
It is possible to further dispute a failed hearing by sending it to the Appeals Council. The council reviews all requests, but may reject your request without another hearing if it agrees with the original decision. At this point, you may either accept the decision or file a lawsuit in a federal court. The Appeals Council may send your application back to another judge, or review it directly. You will receive a letter, either from the council directly, or about your new hearing review.
You can continue to receive benefits while appealing a decision to discontinue your disability insurance. Once you receive a letter indicating that the SSA will end your benefits, you have 10 days to request your benefits continue. Note that should you lose your appeal, you will need to pay back the benefits you continued to receive.
When to Talk With an Attorney
You may have a lawyer represent your case at any point during the application or appeals process for SSDI. While many applicants are willing to handle their own appeal, it may be beneficial to have an attorney on your side. The SSA understands many applicants prefer to have a representative, and allows your attorney to manage an application. Your lawyer cannot charge fees without receiving written permission from the SSA.
The process for acquiring social security disability benefits may take time. What’s important is that you follow the correct procedures and avoid making mistakes in the process that could cost even more time. If you need help filing or understanding why the agency has rejected your application, talk with a law firm today.