Suffering a serious illness or a disability that prevents you from going back to work and earning a livelihood can be financially and emotionally devastating for individuals and families. But as a silver lining, in Rhode Island, you may still be able to apply for and receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if you have been diagnosed with a “qualifying” disability or illness that has left you unable to work.
In order to qualify for SSD benefits, a doctor will need to examine you and affirm that your illness or disability is severe enough to prevent you from going back to work. You don’t need to go in to an office to apply. You can do so online, which is convenient and certainly a better option during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is fairly common for people to be denied benefits when they initially apply, even if they provided the necessary documentation.
As COVID-19 disruptions abound, appealing a denial of benefits can feel particularly complex, stressful and intimidating. If your application for benefits has been denied and you are not sure about how to proceed, here are a few options you may wish to pursue.
What the Appeals Process Entails
If your benefits were denied, you should receive a letter from the Social Security Administration explaining why that determination was made. The letter will typically also contain suggestions to move forward. An individual whose benefits have been denied would have 60 days after the first notice to request a review and appeal for reconsideration.
The first step if your disability claim is denied is to request an appeal. A crucial step in this process is to make sure you have compiled all the necessary information to show that you have been afflicted with an illness or disability that affects your ability to perform your job. If you left out a key piece of evidence in your original filing, this is the time to make sure you include that information. Your Rhode Island Social Security Disability lawyer will be able to help you identify such evidence, compile and present it during your appeal process to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
If that initial appeal is denied, your attorney will file a request for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge who was not involved in the initial reconsideration of your case. If the judge denies your request as well, you may be able to file for a review by the Appeals Council. But, in some cases, the council could still deny your request. Filing a lawsuit in federal court is typically the last step in this process.
How to Improve Your Chances
There are several steps you can take to improve your chances of successfully appealing your SSD denial. First, it is important that you consider submitting new medical evidence. If you experience any changes in your medical condition, it is critical and required that you inform the Social Security Administration. The additional paperwork could be cumbersome, but depending on your situation, it could work to your advantage. New medical evidence, for example, if it shows you suffered additional setbacks in your health or physical condition, may help you get a new decision because it gives the person evaluating your case more reasons to award benefits.
It could also be extremely beneficial to get your doctors’ testimonials. The SSA will take these types of assessments from medical professionals into serious consideration when evaluating a particular case. If your application was denied at first, it may help to provide more evidence that your illness or disability qualifies for benefits.
In order to do this, you can have your doctor fill out a residual functional capacity form or submit a revised form documenting a new medical issue or a problem that got worse. As part of this document, they can also provide descriptions of your medical condition to reinforce why they believe that your condition is severe enough to warrant financial support.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Irrespective of the approach you wish to take with regard to your appeal, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced Rhode Island Social Security Disability lawyer to discuss your options. Our SSD lawyers at d’Oliveira & Associates are extremely knowledgeable about the appeals process. We also work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only receive payment if your case is successful. If your application for disability benefits has been denied, we are here to help. Call us at 800-992-6878 for a free and comprehensive consultation.