Experiencing denial after applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be disheartening for applicants, but it does not necessarily mean you have no chance of receiving benefits. The overwhelming majority of first-time applicants are denied benefits, especially when they have applied without the help or representation of a knowledgeable SSD attorney.
When the Administration makes an adverse decision, you have the opportunity to appeal your denial, and persist in your quest for benefits. In fact, there are three different levels of appeal within the Administration’s system, including: reconsideration, hearing, and Appeals Council review. Even after initial denial, you could ultimately gain approval later on at any of these appeals levels.
If your initial application for SSD benefits was denied, you should look into hiring an attorney who has experience handling Social Security Disability claims, to help you compile the necessary documentation so you can receive benefits following a successful appeal.
Stage One: Reconsideration
At the reconsideration level, claims examiners and physicians who were not involved in the review of your initial application will go through your claim file, your statement as to why you disagree with the Administration’s adverse decision, and any new evidence that you submit. If the new examiners find that you are eligible to receive SSD benefits, your claim will be approved.
Stage Two: SSD Hearings
If applicants are denied a second time after the reconsideration stage, that decision can be appealed with the request of a hearing. Once you have filed your request for a hearing, it may take approximately fifteen months or so for the hearing to be scheduled. Hearings are generally held in person within a reasonable distance of your home, with some exceptions. At the hearing, you, or you and your SSD attorney, will present your case to an Administrative Law Judge who hears the case. At the hearing, additional documentation and materials will come into play, including: affidavits, and witness statements. In some cases, medical or vocational experts may be asked to testify, and you and/or your attorney will be given the opportunity to question these experts as well.
Stage Three: Appeals Council Reviews
If your claim is denied at your SSD hearing, you can still request an Appeals Council Review of the Administrative Law Judge’s decision and continue your efforts to pursue benefits.
Although these stages and processes may sound intimidating, remember that a substantial amount of people who have been denied SSD are later approved at one of the appeals levels. If you firmly believe you are disabled, your time and patience may pay off in an appeal; and if you hire representation, that could end up being money well spent.
Do I Need an Attorney?
The sooner your claim is laid out fully and clearly to the Administration, the sooner it is that you will likely obtain approval for benefits. Hiring an attorney could be one of the best decisions you make in your effort to obtain benefits because an experienced SSD lawyer can guide you and your physicians so that all the necessary medical records and documentation get submitted. A knowledgeable SSD attorney will help you determine which clinical findings and symptoms pertaining to your condition fit best in terms of proving a qualifying disability and what elements should be given the most attention in your claim.
Going before an Administrative Law Judge – if your appeal reaches that point – can be a stressful experience. An attorney can ease some of your worries about this stage of the appeal and help you prepare for your hearing, obtain affidavits, arrange for witnesses to speak on your behalf, provide details regarding hearing protocol, answer any questions you may have, and ask you questions at the hearing.
Most importantly, an SSD attorney can offer you invaluable experience and familiarity with the processes. If you have been denied, an experienced attorney can review your materials, speak with your physicians and former employers, and determine which aspects of your situation and medical condition will qualify you for benefits. The Social Security Administration has strict requirements in terms of having a qualifying disability, periods of time you have been out of work, and so on…none of which a lay applicant is likely to know without the help of experienced legal representation. All in all, it helps to have someone in your corner to help navigate the complex processes for obtaining SSD benefits.
The SSD lawyers at d’Oliveira & Associates have a wealth of experience helping disabled individuals get the benefits they need and deserve. Our attorneys and legal staff can answer any questions and guide you every step of the way as you deal with the Administration. Feel free to contact our office by calling our toll free number, logging onto our website, or visiting one of our fifteen office locations across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. After a free (no obligation) case evaluation, we may be able to help get you on the road to approval.