The value of reading the following information is it will help you set reasonable expectations heading into the appeals process. With a general idea about the steps you’ll need to take for the best chance to gain the disability benefits to which you feel entitled, you can direct your energy appropriately. While some claimants choose to enlist the services of an attorney, this is a process that’s manageable by a layperson.
Steps to an Appeal on a Social Security Disability Denial
The First Appeals Step – Request for Reconsideration
After receiving notification that your initial Social Security Disability claim has been denied, you’ll have 60 days to apply for a process called “reconsideration.” At this time, you’ll have an opportunity to provide any additional information or evidence that wasn’t available with the initial claim. The Request for Reconsideration review will fall in the hands of an independent individual who was not party to the decision-making process involving the initial claim. FYI: some data suggests only 10% of all reconsideration claims earn approval. This process takes one to two months for completion.
The Second Appeals Step – Adjudication
After the Reconsideration denial, you’ll have 60 days to request a hearing in front of a judge. This is the first opportunity you will have to meet face-to-face with someone who has the authority to make a decision. That individual will be a Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration. Again, you will be able to add any new information and evidence into the process. During the hearing with the judge, you will get an opportunity to make your case. FYI: This process could take several months.
The Third Appeals Step – SSA Appeals Court
If the Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration decides to deny your claim, you’ll have 60 days to file for a hearing with an Appeals Court. This appeal is called a request for review of a hearing decision. As a formal court proceeding, you would be required to make your appeal in writing. At this point, you would be well-served to learn as much as possible about the Appeals Court process. This will be your last opportunity to make your case for disability in an administrative setting. Again, this process could take several months before you get an answer.
The Fourth Appeals Step – Federal Appeals Court
With all you administrative appeals options exhausted, you will have one more opportunity to have your disability claim approved. It will require you to file an appeal with the US Federal Appeals Court within 60 days of the appeals denial. It’s worth noting an attorney would be useful at this point in the appeals process, though still not required.
Before your scheduled hearing in front of a Federal Appeals Court judge, you’ll have one last opportunity to present any other information or evidence that is relevant to your claim. It would behoove you to make sure you have consulted with as many medical professions and psychologists (when applicable) as possible. In all likelihood, the prior denials came as a result of insufficient evidence that you are indeed disabled. It’s up to you to make the best case possible regarding your circumstances.
The Social Security disability appeals process will require that you exhibit patience and perseverance. When all is said and done, you might have invested financial resources and as much as a year or so of your time. The choice whether to hire an attorney or not is up to you. If you choose to handle the process on your own, the best chance you will have for success will come from your ability to present hard evidence that you are no longer able to work under normal conditions.