As every American who has ever worked knows, taxes are taken out of every paycheck. Part of those taxes pay for Social Security benefits, including disability insurance. The way the system is supposed to work is that if you suffer a long-term disability which prevents you from working, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is there for you as a financial “safety net”. Unfortunately the system does not always work the way it should. Every year millions of Americans apply for SSDI and nearly two out of three initial applications are denied.
If you are among those whose initial applications are denied, what should you do? First, let us tell you the two things you shouldn’t do: Do not give up and do not file a new application. About half of those who appeal after a denial, are awarded disability benefits, so persevering helps many Americans get the benefits they have earned and often desperately need. Filing a new application is typically not the best course of action, because it is likely that you will be turned down again and you will still have to endure the appeals process and the opportunity for you and your attorney to make the case of why you deserve benefits will be further delayed.
If Social Security has turned down your application for benefits, it is in your best interest to seek help from an attorney who exclusively practices disability law. Statistics show that hiring a Social Security disability lawyer for the appeals process increases your chances of winning disability benefits. Sometimes people are reluctant to hire a lawyer because they are concerned about the cost, but because we work on a contingency basis, we only get paid if we win your case.
So how does the appeals process work? In our book, “5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Claim (And how to avoid them)”, we explain the appeals process:
“If you wish to appeal, you must complete and return the proper Social Security appeal forms within 60 days from the date you receive a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) turning down your application for benefits. (SSA assumes you receive the letter five days after it is sent.)
Generally, there are four levels of appeal.
Reconsideration is the first appeal to your initial denial. The Disability Determination Service will do another complete review of your claim by someone who did not take part in the first decision. SSA will look at all the evidence submitted when the original decision was made, plus any new evidence. The reconsideration appeal typically takes two to three months.
If your claim is denied again under reconsideration, you may ask for a hearing. The hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge who had no part in the original decision or the reconsideration of your case. This is the best opportunity to present your case because you get to tell your story in person.
If you get an unfavorable ruling at your hearing you may ask for a review by Social Security’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council looks at all applications for review, but a review is not guaranteed. In order to have the best chance of success in front of the Appeals Council, it is helpful to write (or have your attorney write) a brief outlining your disagreement with the judge’s decision. The Appeals Council can refuse a review of your case, remand your case back to the same judge for another hearing, or award you benefits.
Your last level of appeal is to file a lawsuit in federal district court if the Appeals Council turns down your request for review or if you are not satisfied with the Appeals Council ruling on your case. In order to do this you must supply the Federal Court with proper documentation and write another brief.”
For more insider information about Social Security disability, you can download the entire book “5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Claim (And how to avoid them)” from our website for FREE. If you are disabled, unable to work, and are considering applying for Social Security disability or have been turned down for benefits, contact us for a free evaluation of your situation.