Learn more about the Social Security Disability appeals process and where to turn if you need help.
Social Security disability benefits provide an important safety net for thousands of Americans: studies cited by the Social Security Administration show that a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled at some point before reaching retirement. The benefits furnished through Social Security help disabled workers and their families maintain normal, productive lives. But what about those workers whose disability claims are denied by the SSA? Fortunately, a process is set forth that allows disabled workers to seek review of claims that may have been wrongly decided.
First: A Claim Denial
After deciding a claim, the SSA will send a letter to the worker applying for benefits explaining the outcome and the reasoning behind the decision. If the applicant believes his or her claim was denied in error, the appeals process can be initiated.
After requesting an appeal, your claim will go through reconsideration. Reconsideration is essentially an entirely new evaluation of your claim from the ground up. It is conducted by someone not involved in assessing the original claim, and is usually comprised of a thorough review of all files associated with your claim. If new evidence has emerged since the original decision, that evidence will also be examined.
And some states do not have a reconsideration level at all and go straight to a hearing after the initial denial.
We strongly recommend that you consider hiring a Social Security Disability attorney for the reconsideration step, if you do not have one already.
Third: Administrative Law Judge Hearing
If you get an unfavorable outcome after reconsideration, the next level in the appeals process is a hearing before an administrative law judge.
After requesting a hearing, the judge will notify you as to when and where the hearing will take place. An effort is usually made to hold hearings reasonably close to where you live, and the SSA will help make arrangements to accommodate you if you have a good reason why you cannot attend the hearing at that particular location.
At the hearing, you and your attorney will present your case to the judge and offer reasons why you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits.
Fourth: Appeals Council
An unfavorable decision from the administrative law judge is not the end of the story. You may ask the Social Security Appeals Council to review your case. The Appeals Council will examine any technical and substantive errors in the decision made by the administrative law judge. If the Appeals Council agrees with the judge's decision, it will simply deny review of your claim. But if errors are uncovered, the Appeals Council has two options: it can either make a decision itself - potentially reversing the judge's decision and approving your claim - or it can send your case back for a second hearing.
Fifth: A Lawsuit in Federal Court
If the Appeals Council decides not to review your claim, your final recourse is filing suit in federal court. Very few Social Security Disability cases reach this stage.
The Social Security Disability appeals process is long and relatively complex. If you have received a denial letter and are unsure where to begin, or are feeling overwhelmed at any point in the appeals process, remember that you can seek legal representation. Attorneys handling Social Security Disability claims take cases on contingency, meaning there is no fee unless you obtain benefits. And because many claims that are originally denied are reversed with the help of a lawyer at the reconsideration level, it makes sense to seek help.
Article provided by Schwartzapfel Partners P.C. - Visit us at www.mysocialsecuritydisabilitybenefits.com