Some people think that getting Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is easy and a sure thing. It is not. In fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies more claims than it approves every year. Many of the denied claims are valid.
Fortunately, for people whose claims have been denied, there is hope. Many of these SSD claims go on to be approved during the appeals process.
Most importantly, don’t give up. It’s frustrating when the government denies your claim for disability. And while the process to appeal can be a complex process, you can still win on appeal.
The majority of people who apply are turned down. But at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we want to help turn your denial into an approval.
Please contact us today to get the Kentucky Courage you need to fight for the disability benefits you deserve. It costs you nothing to talk with us and find out about your options for appealing a denied SSD claim.
How to Appeal a Denied SSD Claim
Important – If you received a denial letter, the clock is ticking. You only have 60 days to file an appeal. Don’t miss this important deadline!
During the appeal process, there are four levels:
- Reconsideration – This is a review of your claim by someone who was not involved in the original decision. Your original evidence is reviewed along with any new information you provide.
- Hearing by an Administration Law Judge (ALJ) – These hearings take place in the Social Security Administration’s offices. At this stage, you get to present your evidence before a judge who will issue a ruling. Most cases are won at this level.
- Review by Appeals Council – If the ALJ denies your case, you may ask the Appeal Council for a review. At this stage, the Appeals Council may return your case to the ALJ for a new hearing.
- Federal Court Review – If you disagree with the Appeals Council decision, you can file a lawsuit in Federal District Court. You must have an attorney admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court in Kentucky to represent you at this level.
No matter where you are in the appeals process, you are strongly encouraged to get legal help. If you were denied, your case isn’t over. Contact us for a free evaluation of your legal options.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Social Security Disability Appeal
Although it is not required to have a lawyer to appeal a Social Security disability decision, you’ll have a much better chance of success with your claim if you do.
An SSD attorney can help you determine why your original application was denied. If there were errors on your application or it was incomplete, an attorney can correct these mistakes to help your application be approved during the reconsideration process.
If your appeal goes to a hearing before an administrative law judge, it is important that you speak to an attorney first. These hearings are stressful and have certain procedures that must be followed. An attorney can help prepare you for this hearing so you can be one of the 50 percent of people that are approved during this stage.
What If Your Appeal is Denied?
If you are still denied Social Security disability benefits after your hearing before the administrative law judge, you can submit a request for the Appeals Council to assess your case.
The Appeals Council has discretion over which cases they hear, so they may grant, deny, or dismiss your request for a review. The only times the Appeals Council cannot deny your case for review is when one of the following is true about your case:
- There was a legal mistake in your hearing, such as the hearing was incomplete.
- There is not enough evidence as to why the judge made a particular decision.
- Another error was made, such as the judge did not inform you that an expert witness would be present at your case.
Like all levels of the appeal process, you have a limited amount of time to request a review from the Appeals Council. If you do not make your request within this time limit, the Appeals Council can dismiss your request for a review. The chances of winning your case at the Appeals Council level is very small, as only 2 to 3 percent of decisions are overturned at this level.
If the Appeals Council denies your request for review or your case is dismissed, you can take your claim to federal court by filing a lawsuit. A federal judge will review the case looking for legal mistakes, although they will take factual evidence into consideration in many cases, such as the extent of your disability.
Few decisions are overturned in federal court, but these courts do send approximately half of the cases they receive back to the SSA. When they do this, they will also make suggestions to the SSA. For example, they may state that the SSA did not weigh the doctor’s opinion sufficiently, or that the SSA did not fully consider the extent of pain and other symptoms you are experiencing.
Time Frame for SSD Appeals Process
After your claim has been denied and you submit a request for reconsideration, it will take approximately three to five months until a decision is made at this level. Once the reconsideration process is over, most applicants have been going through the SSDI application process for six to eight months.
If you decide to continue the appeals process, you must request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge within 60 days of receiving your denial after reconsideration. However, it can still take anywhere from ten months to two years to receive a date for your hearing. The wait for this hearing is long, but it’s also important to remember that it is worth it. While many requests for reconsideration are also denied, you’ll have a much better chance at winning your case during the hearing phase of the process.
For most people, the entire appeals process is a lengthy one. However, those suffering from a severe or life-limiting illness may be approved in just a few short weeks. This is called a “compassionate allowance.”
How to Check Your Status in SSD Appeal
If you are working with our Kentucky SSD appeal lawyers, we will regularly check the status of your claim and keep you informed about it.
What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing
If you make it to the disability hearing stage, your hearing may take as little as 15 minutes or may go as long as one hour. This will depend on the amount of questions the judge asks you, and how many expert witnesses have been called to testify. An attorney can prepare you for the hearing so you know what types of questions to expect, and understand how to answer them.
All judges are different, so it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect, but they will all focus on your medical records and work history. The judge will ask about the type of pain you are experiencing, how your condition restricts your ability to function, and what your limitations are when performing certain tasks.
No matter what the judge asks you, it’s important that you are always honest. Do not lie or exaggerate, as that will harm your chances of winning your case. Judges know when someone is being dishonest with them based on their years of experience. Also, do not be embarrassed about your condition, no matter what it is. Judges have heard hundreds of testimonies over the years and are only looking for the facts of the case.
Common Reasons SSD Claims Are Denied
There are many reasons your SSD claim may be denied, but some reasons are more common than others. Some of the most common reasons given for denying an SSD claim include:
- You don’t meet the basic requirements. These typically have nothing to do with your medical history. Instead, this essentially means that you earn more than the substantial gainful activity limit, or you don’t have enough work credits.
- Your medical condition is not severe enough. If you do not meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled” or the condition will not last longer than one year, you will not qualify for SSD.
- You don’t follow doctors’ orders. You must be willing to help yourself and your condition. If the SSA believes that you are not following prescribed treatment plans, it will deny your claim.
- You’re uncooperative with the SSA. It’s always in your best interests to cooperate with the SSA. This means releasing your medical files, showing up for consultative exams, and otherwise complying with the SSA’s requests.
- The SSA cannot reach you. If you move or change your phone number, you must inform the SSA.
- You don’t have enough medical evidence. Medical evidence is crucial in any SSD claim. If you cannot provide enough evidence showing the extent of your condition, your claim will be denied.
- You are in jail. You cannot receive SSDI benefits if you are incarcerated. You can receive them once you are released.
These are just a few of the most common reasons SSD claims are denied. Our Kentucky SSD appeals lawyers are ready to fully review your application to determine why it was denied, and help you throughout the appeals process.
Talk to Our Kentucky Disability Appeal Lawyers Now
No one should ever go through the disability appeal process alone. If your claim for SSD has been denied, you should speak to one of our Kentucky Social Security appeal lawyers at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer today.
We will help determine why your initial claim was denied, walk you through every step of the appeal process, and give you the best chance of success. We’ve helped thousands of people navigate this system, and we want to help you, too.
Contact us for your free consultation now.