How To Appeal A Social Security Disability Decision
Being denied Social Security Disability benefits can be discouraging, but the truth is that most initial disability claims are denied. Fortunately, the initial application is just the first step toward getting the benefits you deserve.
What Happens If I’m Denied Social Security Benefits?
If your Social Security Disability benefit application is denied, you’ll receive a letter explaining why you were denied benefits and what your options are.
Request for Reconsideration of Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
Start by filing a Request for Reconsideration. For most people, this step is a formality; the vast majority of claims are also denied on reconsideration. Nonetheless, you’ll have to make the request and receive the denial before proceeding to a hearing.
Your Request for Reconsideration must be filed within 60 days of the initial denial. If you miss that deadline without good cause and still want to pursue disability benefits, you’ll have to start over with a new application.
How Can I Change My Disability Benefits Decision?
Although the chances of changing your Social Security disability benefits decision are remote at the reconsideration stage, the likelihood of success increases when you reach the hearing stage.
The Social Security Disability ALJ Hearing
Within 60 days of the denial of your Request for Reconsideration, you may appeal the decision and request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ hearing must be requested in writing, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes it easy for you to make that request. You may:
- Complete forms online;
- Complete and mail in paper forms provided by the SSA; or
- Write a letter to the SSA requesting a hearing.
At the hearing stage, you’ll have the opportunity to submit new information, though time limits apply.
Appealing Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
If your benefits are denied by the ALJ, you still have avenues available, including appealing to the Appeals Council and eventually appealing the decision in federal court. However, if you decide to pursue this option, you should be prepared for a long process. A determination at this level will typically take at least a year or more.
Can an Attorney Help Me If My Disability Benefits Aren’t Approved?
A Social Security Disability lawyer can help you in many ways if you’ve been denied benefits. Your attorney can manage the process to ensure that all deadlines are met, and that evidence is properly assembled and presented in the most effective way for your case. In addition, an experienced disability lawyer knows the “language” that Administrative Law Judges speak, and will be able to present your case in a manner that’s clear and convincing.
The importance of working with an attorney increases as you progress to more complex levels of appeal, where stricter and more complicated procedural rules apply. It’s often beneficial to work with an attorney from the very beginning, to ensure that simple mistakes don’t derail or delay your claim.