Denied: Cutting the Red Tape of the Social Security Disability Appeals Process
If you’ve applied for Social Security Disability benefits, but you’ve been denied, you might think that your options are limited. But, really, you’ve got a lot of ways to turn your situation around. Here are just some of the ways you can fight back.
Make Sure You Have All Of Your Paperwork Turned In Correctly The First Time
Unfortunately, the Social Security Disability system makes getting benefits an uphill battle. Most people give up when their initial SSDI or SSI claim is denied, and most claims are denied the first time around.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a good case, however. If you want to win an SSDI or SSI case, you’ll have to see your case through to the end, and that often means meeting with a lawyer, preparing drafts of letters and going to court more than once.
You can speed up the process by making sure that you process documents fast and efficiently, return phone calls promptly, and always show up on time for in-person interviews.
The application process begins when you initiate a claim. You can either fill out an application yourself (not recommended), or you can walk in at a local Social Security office and wait hours for an appointment.
The best option is the phone. You can avoid the daily phone log jam by calling when the office opens. Arrange an interview by phone rather than in-person. Over-the-phone interviews are usually more convenient than traveling to a local SSA office.
If you don’t want a representative’s help during the application process, you can also file online.
While disability applications are filed at the local SSA office, or online, they’re processed and evaluated at the state disability agencies, usually the Disability Determination Services, or DDS. DDS employs disability claims examiners. The examiners are the ones who make the initial decisions on your application for benefits.
It’s important to follow up with DDS claims, and not the SSA, because they don’t make the evaluation or determination. DDS examiners who are bugged by applicants tend to process the claims faster. And, unlike the SSA office, the DDS office is usually accessible by phone.
Get Ready To Appeal The Decision
Most SSDI and SSI claims are rejected the first time around. You’ll have to appeal for a reconsideration request. Fortunately, if you visit Brown and Crouppen Law Firm and make your appeal with a qualified lawyer, the reconsideration won’t take as long as the initial claim.
It’s not unusual for a decision on a reconsideration to take just 8 weeks.
If an examiner is backed up with work, however, it might take longer. Some individuals might have their application processing delayed. For example, if you’ve suffered from certain medical trauma like a heart attack, your claim might be delayed so that the examiner can assess the residual effects of the illness.
The first appeal to a SSDI or SSI rejection is done with a different examiner than the first one that decided on your case. In some states, however, the reconsideration request has been eliminated. For example, reconsideration isn’t available in:
- Some parts of California
- New Hampshire
- New York
In these states, if you’ve been denied, you simply file for a disability hearing.
In states where a reconsideration request is still required, you must appeal within 60 days of the initial rejection or you’ll be forced to file a new application for benefits.
Most reconsideration requests are denied – about 85 percent. Unless you have new medical information to submit, or your condition has deteriorated, your claim is likely going to be denied again. Working with a lawyer increases the odds that you’ll get past the reconsideration request, however.
The ALJ Hearing
The hearing you get after reconsideration request is a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). You can initiate the process online, by sending in paper forms, or by writing a letter to your local SSA office.
Going in without a lawyer is generally a bad idea.
Going To Appeals Council
If your disability appeal is denied after a hearing with an administrative law judge, you have the option of filing an appeal with the Social Security Appeals Council. The purpose of this hearing will be to determine whether the ALJ made an error in denying your claim.
Going To Federal District Court
If it’s determined that the ALJ did not make an error, then you have the right to appeal both the original denial by the ALJ and the Social Security Appeals Council. You have 60 days from the date of the Appeals Council decision to appeal that decision.
Appealing a Cessation Of Disability Benefits
Even when you’re approved, you can have your benefits taken away by cessation. It’s rare, but it happens. You have the right to appeal this decision with the DDS, and move up the ladder if your appeal is denied. Generally, the appeals process follows the same format as if you were denied your original application for benefits.
Guest Author :
Robert Diamond is a road safety officer and also devotes his time to helping look after the needs of vulnerable people in the community. He has a working knowledge of the social security system and wants to share what he knows with an online audience. Robert often writes for a number of consumer and community services websites.