With nearly 70% of Social Security disability applications denied initially, the application process naturally includes a robust appeals process. In fact, there are four separate stages of appeal built into the Social Security application process:
- Review by the Appeals Council
- Federal Court
Reconsideration is basically what it sounds like: you are asking the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reconsider your application. You do have an opportunity to add missing information, but otherwise the reconsideration is similar to the initial consideration of your application, only it will be conducted by a person not involved in the original decision.
If you have previously been on benefits, but have been denied additional benefits due to a review of your case, you also have the option of speaking in person to an SSA representative about the decision.
If you don’t like the outcome of your reconsideration appeal, you can request a hearing to consider your case further. Hearings are run by administrative law judges, and the judge you are assigned had no role in the initial decision or reconsideration. Hearings are typically held within 75 miles of your home, but these days, in many cases your hearing may be held by videoconference. You will be notified of the time and place of the hearing with adequate time to prepare.
This is another opportunity for you to supply missing information. In fact, the SSA may request additional information. Each judge is a little different about what information they like to see in an application, which is something an experienced Social Security disability attorney can help with. You are also allowed to bring witnesses (some may be requested by the judge) and a representative.
During the hearing, the judge will ask you questions and question your witnesses. You or your representative are also allowed to ask questions.
You do not have to attend your hearing in most cases, but it is generally to your advantage.
If you are still unhappy with the result, you can take your appeal to the appeals council. The appeals council may or may not grant your request for a review. After looking over your request, it may decide it agrees with the decision made after the hearing. Other times, the appeals council may issue its own decision, or request that your judge reconsider your case.
Finally, if you do not agree with the decision made by the appeals council, you can file a federal lawsuit. This is truly the appeal of last resort. Not only does it come after the other appeals, but also it may take more than two years to get your case tried in a Federal court. Filing a lawsuit in a case like this should be reserved for only the most important situation where SSDI is the only good option for receiving benefits.
An attorney can improve the success rate of your applications and appeals. If you have been denied social security benefits, now is the time to act, please contact us today to learn how we can help you.