When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, many people assume that it will be a smooth process with minimal complication. You file the application, provide the necessary documents, and wait for the approval letter. Unfortunately, receiving Social Security Disability benefits is rarely ever that simple. In fact, only about 30 percent of initial applications for Social Security Disability are approved. What happens if your application is one of the remaining 70 percent that are denied disability benefits at the initial stage of the process?
Having your initial claim for Social Security Disability benefits denied can be a frustrating and disheartening experience. It is important to remember, however, that if you give up now, you are not going to receive the benefits that you may really be entitled to. That is why it is important to appeal the decision if you truly believe that you should be receiving Social Security Disability benefits. There are some things you need to remember and some steps you need to take if you hope to win your appeal for your Social Security Disability claim.
Time is of the Essence When Appealing a Disability Claim
First of all, remember that time is of the essence. You only have sixty days from the date of your denied Social Security Disability application to file an appeal. If you do not file your Social Security Disability appeal within that 60-day time period, you will need to begin the application process all over again, and your chances of getting an approval on the initial application the second time around are lower than getting an approval at one of the appeal levels.
The Disability Appeal Report
Once you receive your notice of decision, make sure you send the Appeal Disability Report and Request for Reconsideration to the Social Security office within the 60-day period. The office will then forward your report to the State Disability Determination office. Unfortunately, this is the same office that also reviewed your application the first time, so it is not uncommon to be denied disability benefits at this stage of the disability application process as well. If your application is denied at this level, don't give up hope. There are still steps you can take to get the Social Security Disability benefits you are entitled to.
A Judicial Hearing in Your Disability Case
The next step of the Social Security Disability appeal process is a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. This will be an informal process where you explain to the judge, in your own words, why you cannot work and how your disability affects your ability to live your day-to-day life. Be open and honest and answer all questions thoroughly.
If your Social Security Disability application gets to this point, you may want to consider hiring a Social Security Disability attorney to represent your interests and to make sure you are adequately represented during this part of the appeal process. It may be an intimidating process, but remember that many Social Security Disability cases are overturned at this point of the appeal process and the chances of you winning your case successfully are increased if you have legal representation.
After your hearing, you will receive a written decision as to whether or not your Social Security Disability claim has been approved. Oftentimes a claim will be approved at this level, but if it isn't, you still have recourse available to you.
Disability Appeals Council Review
If you are denied Social Security Disability benefits after the judicial hearing and you feel that your judicial hearing was unfair, you can appeal with the Appeals Council Review. While the Appeals Council itself will usually not overturn a ruling, they will determine if your judicial hearing was a fair one and, if it wasn't, they can send your file back for a second hearing before another Administrative Law Judge.
Federal District Court
If the Appeals Council does not rule in your favor, your last step is to appeal to the federal district court. In this step of the process, a federal judge can either approve or deny your disability claim or send the case back for another hearing. Again, it is in your best interests to have an attorney representing you at this level of the appeals process. Your chances of winning your case with the federal district court are much greater with proper representation, as it can be very difficult to represent yourself at this level.
The appeals process can be a long and frustrating one, but it is encouraging to remember that nearly half of all Social Security Disability cases are won at the appeal level. Don't give up hope! Utilize the procedures that you have available to you and follow the necessary steps to increase your chances of a favorable decision.