Over two million Americans apply for disability benefits each year, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies the majority of claims it receives, according to the SSA’s Annual Statistical Report. If the SSA denied your application for benefits, you have the right to appeal your case.
Note, however, that there is a very strict time limit on when you can initiate the appeals process. As soon as possible after you receive your letter of denial in the mail, call Berger and Green and speak to a Social Security disability lawyer about your options. You do not want to forfeit the benefits you and your family need. Contact us today for a free consultation: 412-661-1400.
How long do I have to appeal my Social Security disability claim?
You have 60 days from the time you received your “Social Security Notice of Disapproved Claim” in the mail to begin the appeals process. The SSA allows for a five-day grace period from the date on the letter for mail delivery times. At the bottom of your letter of denial, you will see a reminder about this 60-day time limit.
It is important to take action and begin your appeal as soon as possible. Waiting until the last minute not only stalls your access to benefits, but could nullify your claim. If you fail to file an appeal within this window, the SSA will close your file.
What does the Social Security disability appeals process entail?
There are a few levels of appeals. Each level of appeals allows you another opportunity to restate your case and provide additional evidence to support your claim. To begin your appeal, you must first either request a reconsideration or request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ) as applies to your particular case.
You will wait well over a year to attend your hearing, depending on the court’s backlogs. The Social Security Administration will notify you and your attorney of the hearing’s date and location. When you work with Berger and Green, we will make good use of the time before the hearing to gather as much evidence as possible to prove your case and present to the ALJ.
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What happens at a hearing with an ALJ?
The SSA holds disability hearings at an Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), usually within 75 miles of the claimant’s home. A federally appointed ALJ will conduct the hearing and review any new evidence brought to light. Note, while ALJs are appointed, they are not technically under the SSA’s authority. They are independent and neutral, which enables them to make unbiased decisions about claims.
At the hearing, the ALJ will review your file and analyze your medical and vocational evidence. This includes all of the documents from your initial claim, as well as any new evidence your attorney updated for ODAR. After the hearing, the SSA will send you a letter and a copy of the decision.
CAUTION: It is in your best interest to have a lawyer from our firm help you prepare for the hearing and to represent you during the proceeding. Most people are simply unfamiliar with how to properly prepare a case, how to present a legitimate claim, what types of regulations a claim is subject to, and what Social Security policies and procedures are. Our qualified disability lawyers at Berger and Green are familiar with this important information and know how to skillfully manage the appeals process.
What if the ALJ denies my disability claim, too?
If the ALJ upholds the initial decision and denies your Social Security disability claim at the hearing, you are not without recourse. You can take the next step in the appeals process and request the Social Security Appeals Council review the decision. If the Appeals Council agrees to review your case, it may:
- Decide to uphold the ALJ’s decision and deny your benefits;
- Approve your case; or
- Send the case back to an ALJ for another hearing.
If the Appeals Council upholds the decision, you still have one more avenue you can pursue. You can file a lawsuit in a Federal District Court.
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How can Berger and Green help with my Social Security disability appeal?
Having an attorney greatly improves your chances of receiving a favorable decision. The Social Security lawyers at Berger and Green have over 40 years of experience representing people living with disabilities at Social Security hearings.
In preparation for your hearing, your Berger and Green attorney will gather medical evidence to support your claim and prepare you for your testimony. Our staff will be here every step of the way to answer your questions and guide you through the process.
At the hearing, your attorney will present evidence, take testimony, question the vocational expert, and argue your case before the ALJ. Success is very possible at this stage because you can appear before the judge and tell him or her about your disability in your own words.
We know how important your benefits are to you when you are unable to work. We will get to know you and your situation and advise you on the best way to proceed to procure your rights. If the ALJ denies your claim, we will be ready to request a review with the Appeals Council, and even file a federal suit if it is appropriate to file such appeals in your particular case.
How do I begin the Social Security disability appeals process?
To begin your appeal, contact Berger and Green and speak to one of our disability attorneys. We can answer any questions that you may have about appealing your Social Security disability decision. After our initial consultation together (which is free of charge), we will explain your next steps and get the ball rolling. The sooner we get started on your case, the better prepared we will be for the hearing. Contact us today at 412-661-1400.
Free case evaluations • NO attorneys’ fees or costs unless we recover a settlement, benefits, or verdict in your case • We can initiate your case by phone or e-mail – CALL today (412) 661-1400 or Contact us online