Attempting to apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration can be a disheartening process. Applying initially can seem daunting, and it often results in a denial of benefits. In fact, according to a report compiled by the Social Security Administration, between the years on 2001 and 2010 an average of 72 percent of all initial claims for disability benefits were denied by the agency.
Many people think that they should simply start the application process over if they receive a denial, but there is another option that may make more sense. People who receive a denial at the initial stage can appeal the agency’s decision. In fact, there are actually multiple levels of appeal available to people. The grant rate for petitions once those appeals are included rises considerably, going from 28 percent to 45 percent, so it is certainly a strategy worth looking into.
The Appeals Process
There are several steps to the Social Security Disability appeals process once a person receives an initial denial. The first step involves filing a Request for Reconsideration. That request has to be filed within 60 days of the denial of the initial application, and it pushes the application back to the Social Security Administration for another look. The form is short, but it does include a small section for the applicant to explain specifically what the original person reviewing the application failed to properly consider. Additionally, people who file a Request for Reconsideration may have the opportunity to update their application with any new medical information that has come to light since the filing of the original.
If the Request for Reconsideration is again denied, there is still another option, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ is an impartial decision-maker who did not participate in any of the previous denials of a person’s application. The hearing may be in-person or done by remote and it gives the applicant or their attorney the chance to make their case to the judge about why the previous denials were in error. This can include presenting more documents to the ALJ or even introducing witnesses to testify as to the applicant’s medical condition.
Higher Levels of Appeal
If the application is still denied, an applicant is not yet out of options. The Social Security Administration maintains an Appeals Council that acts as an extra review over and above the ALJ. However, the Appeals Council has discretion over whether it chooses to review a case, so it has the option to deny a person a further chance for review. Beyond the Appeals Council, applicants may also be able to appeal the denial of their benefits up into the federal court system, though whether that decision would be practical depends on the exact reason that a person’s application has been repeatedly denied
Social Security disability applications can be a long and complex process, but you do not have to go through them alone. If you have received a disability benefits denial and want to learn more about your options, contact a Columbus Social Security disability attorney at the Law Office of Mike Gertner today.