NOTE: This is a guest post from our friends at Riddle & Brantley, a law firm of personal injury, auto accident, wrongful death, workers’ compensation, and North Carolina disability lawyers.
If you’ve been denied Social Security disability benefits, do not be discouraged. It’s important to remember that roughly 70 percent of initial applicants are denied benefits.
There are many opportunities to appeal your case. A Social Security lawyer can help you determine your best legal options for pursuing your appeal.
There are multiple “levels” of application and appeal for seeking Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These include:
Initial Application — After filing an initial application with the SSA and waiting an average of several months, most applicants (roughly 70 percent) for disability benefits are denied. You have 60 days to request “reconsideration” by Disability Determination Services (DDS).
Reconsideration — At the Reconsideration level, a different Claim Examiner will review your disability claim. At this level, only about 13 percent of claims are approved, and the entire process often takes several months. This is often a frustrating stage for applicants for SSD or SSDI benefits.
Hearing — If your claim is denied at the Reconsideration level, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Here, your chances of success rise dramatically. Across the United States, roughly 47 percent of cases at the Hearing level are approved for benefits. At your hearing, an experienced disability lawyer can argue your case before the ALJ, present supporting medical records, evaluation forms and letters of support, and even cross-examine witnesses.
Appeals Council — If your disability claim is denied by the ALJ at the Hearing level, you can file an appeal with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is made up of a number of Administrative Appeals Judges (AAJs) who review the ALJ’s decision to determine if any mistakes were made. While the Appeals Council only rejects an ALJ’s denial about 1 percent of the time, in about 9 percent of cases it will send a claim back to the ALJ for further consideration.
Federal District Court — If your case is one of the 90 percent or so that are not reversed or sent back for further review by the Appeals Council, you still have an opportunity to file a lawsuit in Federal Court. About 2 percent of the time, a Federal Judge will reverse the ALJ’s decision and grant benefits. However, just less than half the time, they will find errors in the initial decision and send the case back to the ALJ for further review.
Federal Circuit Court of Appeals — If your case is denied in Federal District Court, you do have the option to file an appeal with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. However, very, very few Social Security disability cases make it to this step.
Remember, you are entitled to withdraw a claim at any point in the process, and there is nothing to stop you from filing a new claim for disability benefits at any point.
Are you applying for disability benefits or appealing a denial?
If the process sounds complex, that’s because it is. But you don’t have to do this alone. An experienced disability attorney can help evaluate your case and determine the best path forward for pursuing your claim for disability benefits.
For help applying for disability benefits or appealing a previous denial, talk with an experienced disability attorney today.
Thanks to our friends at Riddle & Brantley for contributing this post.