4 Steps For Appealing A Denied Disability Claim

If you are filing for social security disability, you have likely heard that as much as 70 percent of applicants have their initial claim denied. Instead of letting this number discourage you, the best thing you can do while you are waiting for the results of your first application is to educate yourself about the appeals process. Here are the four steps of a disability claim appeal so that you can be prepared if your initial claim is denied.

Step 1: Review Your SSA File

After you have learned that your claim has been denied, you should carefully review your SSA file before taking any action to appeal. If you have not already been working with a social security attorney, now is an excellent time to hire one. They can help you find incorrect information in your SSA file about your impairment severity, age, education level, and other errors that you can point out to increase your chances of winning the claim.

In addition to making sense of the paperwork, an attorney can help you determine if appealing your claim is worth it. While it is a good idea to appeal in most cases, your time and energy may be better spent elsewhere if your medical condition is not listed on the Social Security Administration's Listing of Impairments, or if your disability will last less than a year.

Step 2: Request Reconsideration

After you have reviewed your SSA file, you will make a request for reconsideration at your local Social Security Office. Here you will fill out a reconsideration request form where you must detail your reasons for refuting the denial and provide any updates about your health condition, recent medical treatments, and additional work experience since you filed the initial claim.

After you fill out the form, your claim file will be resubmitted to examiners and physicians who did not work on your claim the first time. This allows the reviewers to create an unbiased determination about your eligibility for disability based solely on the information in your file. If your claim is denied again, the next step is a disability hearing.

Step 3: File a Hearing Request

When you file a hearing request, it can take up to 15 months for your disability hearing to take place, so it is only a viable option for long-term disabilities. The hearing will either be held in person or through video conferencing if there is not a Social Security Hearing Office near your location. You will typically get a notification about the details of your hearing 20 days in advance.

The hearing is your unique opportunity to voice your case directly to the Administrative Law Judge that determines your eligibility. You should always have a social security attorney represent you during your hearing. A disability hearing is a formal legal proceeding, and your attorney's experience with disability cases and ability to cross-examine witnesses and physicians will be invaluable for winning your claim.

Step 4: Request an Appeals Council Review

If your claim is still not successful after your disability hearing, you can pursue the claim further through a Social Security Appeals Council review. Your request for a review must be sent directly to the appeals council office within 60 days of your hearing. The council will review your case one final time and provide a final decision on the behalf of the Social Security Administration, although your claim can take two years or more to be processed.

Appealing a denied disability claim can be a long and stressful process, especially if you have to make an appeal directly to the appeals council. Fortunately, you often will not have to take every step. Many applicants have their claims approved after filing a reconsideration request. For more information about the process, contact a social security attorney.