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Filing for Disability in Florida
Filing for disability in Florida is much like filing in any state because Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income SSI) are federal programs. However, there are variations between the states on how they handle the application process and payment of disability benefits. Information specific to the Florida application and appeals process, Florida’s state supplemental payment for SSI, vocational rehabilitation services, and contact information for the disability determination and hearing offices in Florida are outlined below.
Application and Appeals Process
You can apply for SSD and SSI by contacting any of the 54 Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices in Florida or by filling out an online disability application at the Social Security website. Once the application is received by the local SSA office, it is sent to the Division of Disability Determinations (DDD) under the Florida Department of Health. A claims examiner at DDD will review the application and make a decision regarding whether or not you will receive disability benefits. Note that Florida, unlike most other states, allows disability examiners, rather than medical consultants, to make medical assessments regarding the severity of and limitations imposed by various physical disorders (Florida is testing this single decision-maker model as part of the SSA s Disability Redesign project. Mental disorders must still be reviewed by a psychiatrist or psychologist.)
At the initial application stage, only 26.8% of individuals are approved in Florida. This approval rating is lower than the national average disability approval rate, which is 31%.
Stage of Application
If you are not satisfied with the determination that is made by DDD, you have the right to appeal the decision. In Florida, there are four parts to their appeal process.
At the reconsideration stage, a new reviewer at DDD who did not take part in the initial decision on your case will look at your entire application and any new evidence that you have submitted. At the reconsideration stage in Florida, 8.9% of the initially denied claims are approved. This is about the same as national average for approvals at the reconsideration level.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing
If you are not satisfied with the decision after reconsideration, you have the right to a disability hearing before an ALJ. The ALJ will review your application and any new evidence that you have submitted. (Learn more about the disability hearing .)
Many cases are won at the hearing stage, as it is usually the first opportunity for those making the decisions regarding your case to see and speak with you. However, the wait time for a hearing in Florida is just over a year, at 367 days. This is nearly a month longer than the national average wait time for a hearing, at 342 days.
In Florida, the approval rating at the disability hearing stage is 48.3%. This is slightly below the national average approval rating of 50%. The approval percentage increases if you hire a disability attorney to represent you at the hearing.
If you get an unfavorable decision (a denial) from the ALJ, you have the right to appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council make a decision on your case only if they believe that your case was decided incorrectly, meaning the decision made was not supported by your record or there were procedural problems.
Federal Court Lawsuit
If your case is not reviewed by the Appeals Council or the ALJ’s decision wasn’t overturned, you may chose to file a lawsuit in federal court in Florida district court. This step may occur only when all other appeals steps have been tried.
Florida’s Supplemental Payments for SSI
The federal government pays a monthly benefit to individuals who qualify for SSI, but states have the option to pay additional monthly benefits to individuals in their state. Florida has chosen to pay additional monies only to an individual living in a community care program (a.k.a. a family care home) or Medicaid facility (that is, a nursing facility for which Medicaid pays more than 50% of the cost). The payments from Florida and the federal government are outlined below.
Contact Florida’s Department of Children and Families for information on applying for Florida’s Optional State Supplementation (OSS).
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Often individuals with impairments want to attempt to return to work but are in need of job retraining return to work successfully. In Florida, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) under the Florida Department of Education is the government office that helps individuals to prepare for, get, and keep jobs. You can apply at your local VR office to receive services. Below is the contact information for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation:
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida Department of Education
Tallahassee, FL 323201
Phone: (800) 451-4327
How to Contact the DDD in Florida
The Division of Disability Determinations is the office that will initially review and determine whether you will receive benefits. In Florida, the DDD is divided into eight offices throughout the state. Below are the telephone numbers for each area office.
Toll Free Number
Central Area 1
How to Contact the Disability Hearing Office in Florida
The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR)The Regional Office of ODAR for Florida is located in Atlanta, Georgia:
SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
Atlanta Federal Center, Suite 20T10
61 Forsyth Street, S.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Phone: (404) 562-1182
Fax: (404) 562-1152
In addition, there are nine ODAR offices in the state of Florida. One of the offices is out of state (Alabama), but services cities within Florida.
SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
500 East Broward Blvd.
Suite 1000, 10th Floor
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33394
Fax: (954) 356-7901
Services the following Social Security field offices: Belle Glade, Cocoa Beach, Delray Beach, Ft. Lauderdale (East West), Melbourne, North Broward, Port St. Lucie, South Broward, Vero Beach, and W. Palm Beach
3650 Colonial Blvd.
Ft. Myers, FL 33966
Phone: (888) 462-1109
Fax: (239) 278-0684
Services the following field offices: Ft Myers, Naples, and Port Charlotte
DeSoto Building, Suite 400
8880 Freedom Crossing Trail
Jacksonville, Florida 32256
Phone: (866) 931-0124
Fax: (904) 232-3961
Services the following field offices: Daytona Beach, Deland, Gainesville, Jacksonville: Downtown North, Lake City, andSt. Augustine
One Riverview Square
333 S. Miami Avenue, 8th Floor
Miami, FL 33130
Phone: (866) 964-5052
Fax: (305) 536-4788
Services the following field offices: Allapattah, Florida Keys, Hialeah, Key West, Little Havanna, Little River, Miami Beach, Miami Central, Miami North, Miami South, Miami-Dade County, Monroe County, Perrine, and the office at Jackson Memorial Hospital
Glenridge Building, Suite 300
3505 Lake Lynda Drive
Orlando, Florida 32817-9801
Phone: (877) 833-2730
Fax: (407) 380-3658
Services the following field offices: Kissimmee, Lake Mary, Leesburg, Ocala, and Orlando
830 Central Ave 2nd Floor
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: (877) 452-4193
Fax: (727) 893-3148
Services the following field offices: St Petersburg, Bradenton, Clearwater, Pinellas Park, New Pork Richey, Venice, and Sarasota
1961 Quail Grove Lane
Tallahassee, Florida 32311
Phone: (888) 472-5996
Fax: (850) 942-1034
Services the following field offices: Marianna, Quincy, Panama City, and Tallahassee
Fountain Square II, Suite 200
4925 Independence Parkway
Tampa, Florida 33634
Phone: (855) 248-0239
Fax: (813) 883-7355
Services the following field offices: Carrolwood, Dade City, Lakeland, Sebring, Tampa, Valrico, and Winter Haven
550 Government St. Suite 200
Mobile, Alabama 36602
Phone: (866) 563-4698
Fax: (251) 441-5993
Services the Ft. Walton Beach and Pensacolafield offices
In addition, if you are considering hiring an attorney to represent you, you can visit our Florida disability lawyer page.