Has your application for Social Security disability benefits been denied? Don’t lose hope. Instead, find out more about the appeals process and about how to protect your rights.
The Social Security Disability Appeals Process
The confusing Social Security disability benefits process involves four separate levels of administrative appeal plus two possible appeals involving the Federal Court system. If a disability examiner denies your initial application, you have 60 days to file an appeal. The appeals process includes:
- Reconsideration. A disability examiner reviews your appeal and any supporting information. The claim is approved or denied.
- Administrative Law Judge Hearing. This is the only time in the entire appeals process when you will meet face to face with a person who has the authority to accept or reject your claim. Our lawyers meet with our clients prior to this hearing to ensure all the medical evidence is in order and to make sure that our clients are fully prepared to testify before the judge.
- Appeals Council. The Appeals Council, located in Falls Church, Virginia, may review the administrative law judge’s decision to determine if the administrative law judge denied your claim unfairly. Our attorneys will write necessary legal briefs and present any new evidence in your case to persuade the Appeals Council that the administrative law judge was wrong.
- Federal Court Appeals. If the Appeals Council denies your claim, you may appeal through the Federal Court system. Morgan & Weisbrod attorneys have appealed hundreds of cases to Federal Court and often have won benefits for clients in Federal Court appeals.
Tips for a Successful Appeal
There aren’t any big secrets to winning Social Security disability benefits, and there aren’t any shortcuts. You have to go through the same system—with the same rules—as everyone else. That being said, though, there are a few things you can do to make certain that your case gets a fair, balanced evaluation and that you get the best results possible. You can:
- Be honest. It can be embarrassing to admit you have a disability, especially a disability that makes it impossible for you to do everyday tasks at work like sitting, standing, or walking. Even if you manage to admit to your physical disabilities, it can be even more difficult to share your mental disabilities. However, it is vital that you are honest about your limitations and conditions when you apply for benefits or appeal your case.
- Be thorough. It may be very clear to you that you have a disability that prevents you from continuing to work, but you have to remember that no one else knows how you feel or understands your medical history. Getting the hard evidence you need to prove your case is absolutely vital to winning it.
- Be persistent. The worst thing you can do when it comes to your Social Security disability appeal is to give up. The majority of people who initially apply for disability benefits are denied and some stop fighting for support then and there. If you are sure you can no longer work because of your health, fight for your benefits and don’t give up.
- Hire an experienced disability attorney. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls. Because of their experience and knowledge, they can make sure your appeal is as complete and thorough as possible and that you meet all deadlines.
If you have a Social Security disability hearing, it is also important to:
- Know when and where the hearing is and make sure you are present.
- Take all of your prescription medications as you usually would on the day of hearing.
- If you use a medical device, use it as you normally would—don’t downplay or exaggerate your reliance on it.
- Arrive about a half hour early to prepare and get into the right mindset.
- Don’t talk about any aspect of the hearing while you are in the building or parking lot where a staff member could overhear you.
- It’s usually not recommended to dress up. We suggest wearing something that is comfortable but not sloppy, such as what you’d wear to a doctor’s appointment. Avoid clothing with prominent logos, slogans, or advertising.
- If you wear makeup or jewelry, keep it subtle. No nail polish, perfume, or cologne.
- Turn off your cell phone before entering the hearing office.
- During the hearing, be respectful, be honest, and be yourself.
It isn’t standard practice to render a determination on your claim at your hearing. The hearing is actually an opportunity for the judge to meet with you in person and discuss your claim with you, your legal representation, and expert witnesses intended to offer informed opinions about your medical conditions and options for future employment. The judge will start his or her decision process after the hearing is complete.
There Are Strict Deadlines
You have as little as 60 days to file for reconsideration or an administrative law judge hearing. Thus, now is the time to learn about your rights and to take the necessary steps to protect them.
At Morgan & Weisbrod, LLP, we have successfully helped thousands of people receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits even after their applications were denied. We are one of the few Texas law firms experienced in appealing SSDI benefits denials all the way to Federal Court—and winning.
To learn more, please call our experienced Social Security disability lawyers today at 800-800-6353for a free consultation.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.