St. Petersburg / Clearwater disability lawyer provides straightforward answers to your Social Security disability questions

In my 20+ years as a St. Petersburg / Clearwater disability lawyer, one thing has remained constant: everyone who comes to me for help feels confused and overwhelmed by the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits. I built this website to help you make sense of it all.

On this page, you will find a big-picture overview of how the application and appeals process works, and how the Social Security Administration determines whether to award or deny benefits. You will find more information on these and other topics in my Social Security disability Library, located at the bottom of this page, and in the video links on this page.

How does the application process work?

The first step toward obtaining Social Security disability benefits is to file an initial application. You may file your application online or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment to apply in person or by telephone. Whichever method you choose, be prepared to provide detailed information about your work history, your medical history, your treatment history, and your current medications. For more information on the application process, read:


How does Social Security determine whether to grant or deny my application?

Every claim for Social Security disability benefits is decided based on an analysis of the following five factors, in the following order:

  • Is the claimant working now? [No.]
  • Does the claimant have a severe physical or mental impairment? [Yes.]
  • Does the claimant have a Listing impairment? [If yes, then you are disabled as a matter of law; if not, the analysis continues.]
  • Can the claimant do work he or she has done in the past? [No.]
  • Can the claimant do any other type of generally available work? [No.]

This sequential evaluation process works like a flow chart; a “wrong” answer at any point in the analysis results in a denial of benefits. For more information on the appeals process, read the articles under Disability Appeals and Your Disability Hearing.

How does the appeals process work?

If your initial application is denied (and, nationally, most are), several levels of appeal are available to you. The first is a written appeal, called a Request for Reconsideration. If your reconsideration request is denied (and, again, most are), the next level of appeal is a hearing before an administrative law judge. The hearing is your chance to meet the Social Security decision-maker in person, and describe for him or her how your impairment affects your daily routine and makes it impossible for you to work. This face-to-face interaction often carries the day. Nationally, more than half of all Social Security disability applicants who pursue their claim to hearing before an administrative law judge are awarded benefits. If, however, the judge denies your claim, all is not lost. If you are unable to work because of a physical or mental disability, you may appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council and then, if necessary, to federal court. Need legal help from a quality Roanoke workers compensation attorney? Contact Barry Agnew today.

Contact St. Petersburg / Clearwater disability lawyer

You may elect to file your initial application for disability benefits and go through entire appeals process on your own, without the assistance of a St. Petersburg / Clearwater disability lawyer. Even the Social Security Administration recognizes, however, that your chances of success improve when you have an experienced disability lawyer on your side. I have been helping disabled Floridians navigate the Social Security disability benefits application and appeals process since 1987. I also handle Florida workers’ compensation claims for individuals who were injured on the job. If you think you may be entitled to benefits under one or both of these programs, and you would like my help, please use the Free Claim Evaluation form on this page to contact me, or call or email me directly.

I wish you success.