Pursuing a claim for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can be a long and frustrating process. It is disheartening to know that only a relatively small percentage of applications are approved by the Social Security Administration. For example, in 2010, only 23.6% of initial applications were approved and only 6.3% of reconsideration level appeals were approved.
Additionally, the appeals process can be lengthy with an average wait time in Seattle’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review being 15 months from the date a hearing is requested to the date a hearing is finally held. While all of this may feel stressful, it’s important to understand that you are not alone and there is help out there.
If you have been denied benefits and you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits, it’s time to begin working with an attorney who can help you.
After the Initial Denial for Social Security
After you file for SSD or SSI and you pass a screening for the non-medical requirements of each respective program, your claim proceeds for a medical determination by an agency called Disability Determination Services (DDS agency). If you are denied for any reason on your initial application, you have 60 days from the date of denial to file an appeal called a Request for Reconsideration Form SSA-561.
An attorney can assist you at any stage of your application or appeal process, including your Request for Reconsideration. If you are not sure how to file this appeal, contacting an attorney who practices Social Security disability law and/or your local Social Security Office is a good place to start.
Unfortunately, the approval rate for reconsideration appeals, as mentioned above, is very low. However, an attorney can help you maximize your chances of success at this level by taking such actions as contacting your treating providers to acquire clear statements of your functional limitations supported by objective medical evidence. An attorney who practices Social Security law could help to prove that your condition meets the Social Security Administration’s requirements of disability.
If Your Reconsideration Appeal Is Denied
If the Social Security Administration denies your Request for Reconsideration Appeal, the next step is to file an appeal called a Request for Hearing. You must file this appeal within 60 days of the date the Social Security Administration denies your Request for Reconsideration. It is at this stage that, at least in Seattle, it can take an average of 15 months from the date you request the hearing until your hearing is actually held.
When your hearing date is finally held, you typically appear before an Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration. This is often your first opportunity to appear before someone in person an argue/explain why you are disabled under Social Security’s rules.
If you have not yet obtained the services of an attorney, it’s time to sit down and get a consultation for free. A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is likely very difficult for an applicant to navigate and to understand the importance of the matters discussed. For this reason, it is strongly advised that you consult with an attorney.
You can file your Request for Hearing appeal online, or you can fill out form SSA-3441 along with form SSA-827, and form HA-501, which will complete your request for an appeal to be heard in front of an administrative law judge.
If an Administrative Law Judge Denies Your Claim
It is possible that you will take your disability claim to a hearing and still be denied benefits. At this stage, it is again highly beneficial to you to seek an attorney to represent you.
Ideally, you will have had an attorney represent you at your hearing. However, if this did not occur, it is possible that an attorney could still help. An appeal of a hearing denial must be made within 60 days of the date of the denial to the Appeals Council. This appeal is called a request for review of a hearing decision and is the final administrative appeal you can make to the Social Security Administration.
Appeals to the Appeals Council can be complex as they require an understanding of how the Administrative Law Judge erred in deciding your case. It often requires a thorough understanding of Social Security’s rules and regulations and the legal standards that judges are required to abide by. Such an appeal of a hearing decision also takes time, energy, and perseverance. A disability claimant typically submits a written argument to the Appeals Council that then adjudicates the appeal.
The Last Stage of the Appeal Process
It is possible that the Appeals Council denies your final appeal. At this point you will have exhausted your administrative remedies regarding your claim and the only option is to file a claim in federal court. This also can be a lengthy and complicated process. Again, consulting with an attorney concerning such an appeal is highly recommended.
Many people who have been denied Social Security disability benefits have been denied because there is simply not enough evidence concerning a person’s medical condition, resulting limitations, or why a condition meets the Social Security’s definition of disability. It’s a conundrum for many disabled people, as seeking treatment requires that one feels well enough to leave the home and seek help. Getting ongoing and regular medical care is very important to your chances of proving that you are disabled and entitled to Social Security disability benefits.
If you have been denied benefits, and believe it’s time for someone to take a hard look at your case to see where you can improve your chances of an approval, you should make a consultation for a free evaluation. If you need more evidence of your disability, you must seek treatment from providers who agree that your disability exists and prohibits you from working.
Are You Looking For Help with Your Social Security Claim?
Lehmbecker Law Firm has years of experience and knowledge when it comes to Social Security disability law and appeals. Let us put our expertise to work you. Contact us for a free case evaluation.