Appealing Your Disability Claim
Most initial claims for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are denied. But you have the right to appeal if you were denied because of failure to follow prescribed therapy or lack of medical evidence. At Fields Law Firm, we have experience handling Social Security Disability appeals, and we’re here to help prepare a strong appeal on your behalf.
If you have questions about filing your disability appeal, Social Security Disability attorneys are here to provide you with the answers you need. Just dial 1-888-343-5375 or fill out a free contact request form. You’re not alone if your SSD claim was denied – we understand, and we’re here to listen to your story.
The 4 Levels of Social Security Disability Appeals
If you choose to file an appeal, you have 60 days from the date you received your denial letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Once your appeal is filed, you will go through up to four levels of the SSD appeals process:
- Appeals Council Review
- Federal Court Case
An official from the SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) who had no part in reviewing your initial application will review your disability claim, along with any new evidence.
If you disagree with the DDS’ decision on your reconsideration, you can request a hearing. During your hearing, an Administrative Law Judge – or an ALJ – will question you about your disability claim. Your attorney will be present through this entire process.
You may request that the SSA’s Appeals Council review your claim if the judge did not follow the law. If your request is granted, the Appeals Council will review your claim, or they will send it to an ALJ for further action.
Finally, if you are still unsatisfied with the decision after the Appeals Council’s review, your attorney can file a lawsuit in a Federal District Court.
Appealing your claim isn’t the only option you have if you were denied benefits. Other options may be available to you, such as filing a new social Security Disability application with new evidence or reopening your claim.
Disability Appeal Process
Applications for Social Security Disability Benefits are often denied. They can be appealed, however. There are several stages of an appeal, each with a different function. The main appeal stages are as follows:
Request for Reconsideration
If your application for Social Security Disability Benefits or Supplemental Security Income is denied, you can appeal. The first appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration. You must file this appeal within 60 days of the date on the denial letter.
After you complete the Request for Reconsideration, you must complete a Disability Report Appeal. This is similar to the Disability Report – Adult, which you completed with your application. It is different in that it asks if your conditions have changed or if you have any new conditions. It also asks if you have seen any doctors or have been treated at any clinics or hospitals since you filed the Disability Report – Adult.
At this stage of the appeals process, your file will be given to a disability examiner other than the one who originally denied your claim. That disability examiner will request updated medical records and review your claim for disability benefits. It usually takes about four or five months for Social Security to issue a decision on a Request for Reconsideration once it is received.
Request for Hearing
The next Social Security Disability Appeal is called a Request for Hearing. This appeal must also be filed within 60 days of the date on the last denial letter. The Request for Hearing works a little differently than the first appeal, though. At this stage of a Social Security Disability Appeal, it is your—or your attorney/representative’s—job to request updated medical records and submit those to Social Security. Also, the person who decides the case is an Administrative Law Judge.
At the hearing, the judge will ask your attorney or representative if all of the relevant medical records have been submitted, and if he or she has any objections. The judge will then ask the claimant questions about his or her conditions and daily activities. If you are a claimant at this stage, be mindful to explain to the judge all of your medical conditions and daily challenges. It may not be easy to discuss, but the only way help the judge fully understand whether you are disabled is to explain all of your conditions and how they affect your activities of daily living.
You may have a witness at the hearing, who can tell the judge what he or she has witnessed about your disabilities. You may also have a representative or attorney at the hearing, who can ask you questions, present evidence, and make arguments.
There will be a vocational expert at the hearing who will tell the judge what jobs your past earning records show. The judge will also ask this vocational expert if there are jobs for a person who has restrictions that may resemble yours.
There may also be a medical or psychological expert at this stage of an SSA Disability Appeal. The medical expert will tell the judge what your medical records show, and whether your conditions meet or equal a Listing of Impairment, which Social Security uses to determine if a person is disabled under their rules.
You will be notified by mail of the judge’s decision. You will receive a “Notice of Decision” from the hearing office. This may be as soon as two weeks, or as long as five months after your hearing.
If a claim is denied at the Request for Hearing level, the next SSA Disability Appeal is to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will decide the case based on the records. They will not take any new testimony from you or other witnesses.
Federal District Court
The next—and usually last—Social Security Disability Appeal is to the Unites States District Court for your district. A Federal District Court Judge will decide if any laws were violated during your hearing.
We know it’s a confusing process, and it’s our job to lead you through it. When you’re disabled, give Fields Law a call to find out how we can help you get the disability benefits you need.