People applying for Social Security disability benefits are already struggling. They’re suffering from a long-term or permanent disability that prevents them from being able to work. Then the Social Security Administration (SSA) adds to the difficulties by denying their claim for disability benefits.
Unfortunately, it is an all-too-common scenario—one shared by nearly 70% of all applicants in their initial application for Social Security benefits. Claims are denied for a variety of reasons, including false or inappropriate claims.
Instead of falling into despair at this point, it is important to understand your options. Working with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer may help as you decide how to proceed.
You Have Two Options If Your Disability Claim Has Been Denied
Unless you decide to accept the decision of the SSA, you essentially have two choices: (1) reapply or (2) appeal the determination.
There are two important considerations in this decision. First, if you opt to reapply, you won’t be able to claim disability benefits for the period covered by your initial application. You’ll start fresh and forgo the benefits you may have been entitled to initially.
Second, if you opt to appeal, the first step is to file a Request for Reconsideration within 60 days. This is simply a request for a different team of medical examiners to review your application again. If you’re denied again, as is often the case, you can file an appeal. It is important to understand the reason for the denial so it can be addressed in the appeal. It may be that you did not have sufficient medical documentation to substantiate the disability. If that’s the case, you can have your treating physician fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form and file it with the appeal.
The next step is often a disability hearing before an administrative law judge.
Since March 2020, due to the pandemic, these hearings have not been offered in person; instead, video or telephone hearings are available. You aren’t required to have an attorney at the hearing, but it is advisable.
During the hearing, you’ll be able to explain to the judge as well as medical and vocational experts as to why you should receive disability benefits. You can bring witnesses and present new evidence or show changes in your condition. If your claim is denied after the hearing, then the decision will be sent to the Appeals Council, which consists of administrative law judges who will ensure the judge from the hearing followed correct procedures and laws. The Appeals Council can either overturn the decision and award your benefits, or it can refer the case back to the administrative law judge for reconsideration.
Where to Go for More Help With Your Social Security Disability Claim
Navigating the Social Security disability process can be stressful and daunting. An experienced attorney can provide essential assistance as you fight to preserve your rightful benefits. Hunter & Everage is here to help, with experienced lawyers in Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll help you decide what to do next.