You can appeal a decision on disability benefits by Social Security by taking the following steps:
- Reading the decision letter carefully
- Appealing the decision within sixty days of receiving the letter
- Arguing and strengthening your case as necessary
- Hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer to represent you throughout
Understanding the SSA’s Decision
Once you receive a decision letter regarding your Disability application, open and read it right away. If your application was denied, the letter will tell you why. Social Security may issue a denial for any of the following reasons.
- Interpretation of evidence: Based on the documentation you submitted, the SSA does not believe that you qualify for benefits.
- Clerical error: There is something wrong with your paperwork. For example, you meant to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but accidentally used the form for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Insufficient evidence: You did not send in enough evidence to prove your work history or medical condition to the SSA’s satisfaction.
You may have to take slightly different actions depending on the reason for your denial. However, all appeals must follow the same steps. These steps are outlined in the next section.
A Note on Disability Types
There are two types of Social Security Disability that you can apply for. Social Security Disability Insurance assists those with a qualifying work history and a condition that is disabling. Supplemental Security Income assists those with limited financial resources, regardless of work history.
Even if you do not qualify for one type of disability, you may qualify for the other. Selecting the right kind of benefit for you is critical to avoiding a denial.
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Appealing an Unfavorable SSA Decision
Anyone wishing to appeal a decision has a limited time to do so: per the Social Security Administration (SSA), you have 60 days from the day you receive the denial to begin your appeal. This deadline applies to each of the four stages of appeal, which are as follows.
- Step one: A reconsideration, at which a different adjudicator will consider your case with fresh eyes
- Step two: A hearing, at which you can argue your case directly before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in person, over the phone, or via teleconference
- Step three: A review, at which the Appeals Council either considers your case or assigns another Judge to conduct a second reconsideration
- Step four: A court hearing, at which a Federal district court judge will hear your case and make a final decision
Depending on your circumstances, you can file your appeal either online or by mail.
If you miss the 60-day deadline at any point, the SSA will interpret your silence as agreement with the decision. You would have to restart the entire application process from the beginning if you decided to try applying for benefits again.
Strengthening Your Disability Application
If your application was denied due to insufficient evidence, you must add evidence to your case file. The SSA will tell you what part of your application needs strengthening. It could be one or more of the following areas:
- Medical status or history
- Employment history
- Financial status and tax history
- Personal information
For example, successful Disability applicants must show that they have one or more conditions that are disabling, i.e., conditions that prevent them from working for at least a year or are expected to be fatal. To prove your disability status, you must send in a variety of documents from your healthcare providers. Documents from relatives and even former employers could also help.
As frustrating as it is to receive a denial, dealing with a lack of evidence is relatively straightforward: you (or your lawyer) identify what documents are missing and supply them. Other reasons for denial are more complex. A Disability lawyer can help you in almost any situation.
Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney
The process of applying for Social Security Disability can be hard to understand and easy to do improperly. A lawyer who specializes in Disability cases can assist you in the following ways:
- Reviewing your application for clerical or other errors that could result in denial—and telling you how to fix it
- Ensuring that the SSA receives all necessary evidence to evaluate your case
- Accompanying you to all hearings, reviews, and other meetings with the SSA and its representatives
- Giving you the chance to ask questions about the application and appeals process so you better understand what is happening
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Berger and Green can help you with your application for Disability benefits, regardless of whether you have already been denied or you have not even started yet. You do not have to appeal a decision by Social Security alone. Instead, call our firm for a free case review.