So you’ve been denied by an Administrative Law Judge after going to your hearing. Now what? In most cases, you have two options: appeal the judge’s decision or just start over and reapply.
Your attorney is usually the best person to advise you as to whether to appeal or reapply because he or she knows the rules and regulations and knows how strong a case may or may not be. It is VERY important to work closely with your attorney to determine whether you should reapply or appeal.
Your only choice may be to appeal if your disability insurance has expired. What this means is that the decision was made after your disability insurance ran out and you cannot apply again because you would be required to use a new disability beginning date of the day after the Judge’s decision. Again, your attorney knows the rules and will be able to explain your options to you.
If you have only applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then you have the option of appealing or reapplying. If you reapply, your onset date will be the day you apply for SSI because the Social Security Administration will only pay SSI back to the date of your application. If you had very consistent medical treatment that reflected that your impairment(s) was severe enough to reach a disabling level, and your attorney has found legal mistakes made by the Judge in the Unfavorable Decision which support a compelling legal argument to the Appeals Council, then it may be in your best interest to appeal the Unfavorable Decision.
However, if you have very little treatment, prior drug or alcohol issues that have been documented in your medical records, unsupportive doctors, or any other complications which make it difficult to prove impairments at a level that is disabling under the Social Security Administration’s stringent guidelines, then your case may be better suited for a re-application and a clean slate.
Although you may be irate and think the Judge “lied” about the evidence or ignored your testimony, please remember that if the legal arguments are sound, it may be nearly impossible to get the Appeals Council to overturn the Judge’s decision.
When making your decision about whether to appeal or reapply, please keep in mind that NEITHER option is a “quick fix”. Both processes are lengthy.
If you appeal your decision, a form known as a “Request for Review” is filed with the Appeals Council. Within 60-90 days, typically, the Appeals Council will send a letter to the attorney allowing him or her approximately 25 days in which to submit additional records and/or a brief outlining the legal arguments in the case. AFTER the brief/records are submitted, it takes about 12-18 months to receive a decision from the Appeals Council. Therefore, from the filing of the appeal form to the receipt of the decision from the Appeals Council typically takes about 16-20 months.
If you reapply, the time from the date of application to the date of the hearing typically spans 18-24 months.
As you can see above, there is no “quick fix” with disability cases through the Social Security Administration and, typically, there is nothing that can be done to speed up the processing time. Please be patient, continue to get treatment from your providers, and listen to the advice of your attorney as to how to help yourself as much as possible in coping while waiting to hear from the Social Security Administration. Trust the experts at Morgan & Weisbrod to navigate this complicated road for you.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.