When a debilitating injury or illness leaves you unable to work, Social Security disability can look like a financial life saver. While these benefits can certainly serve as a lifeline in your time of need, they’re not automatically given. In fact, some estimate that as many as 65% of initial disability claims are denied.
We know that receiving notice that your disability claim has been denied can feel like a punch to the gut, but you shouldn’t let it get you down too much. After all, it’s certainly not the end of the road given that you can appeal your claim denial, and many disabled individuals are successful in recovering the benefits they need in doing so.
Steps in the disability appeals process
There are several steps in the disability appeals process that you can take advantage of, and you should maximize them to your advantage as much as possible. Let’s look at them here:
- Reconsideration: Within 60 days of receiving your denial letter, you can request reconsideration of your claim. Here, your case is sent to a different claims examiner, who will analyze the evidence and make a determination. You can also submit additional evidence to support your claim if more has been gathered since you initially submitted your claim.
- Seek a hearing: Since the vast majority of reconsiderations are still denied, your next step is to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Here, the administrative law judge will assess the evidence in your case file and potentially call witnesses. You’ll need to be prepared to answer the administrative law judge’s questions, and you’ll also want to present any new evidence that’s been obtained since you filed your initial claim.
- Request review by the Appeals Council: The Appeals Council will review the evidence presented at your administrative hearing and determine whether your disability claim should be granted or if the matter should be remanded to the administrative law judge for a new review. However, the Appeals Council also has the ability to refuse review of your claim.
- Federal judicial review: If your claim is still denied at the Appeals Council level, your last option is to take your case before a federal court. When your claim is subjected to this review process, the court will analyze the administrative law judge’s decision with an eye on whether their determination is supported by substantial evidence. You can appeal several aspects of your claim here, too, so make sure you fully analyze your case and look for ways to argue that the administrative law judge’s decision was erroneous.
For some, the appeals process can be long and grueling, but it’s necessary to navigate it if you want to increase your chances of recovering the benefits you need after an initial claim denial. So, don’t be afraid of having to appeal a claim denial. Instead, try to embrace it as a new opportunity.
Have confidence going into your disability case
We know there’s a lot of stress associated with pursuing disability benefits, especially since your focus is on coping with your medical condition and your recovery. That’s why it’s a good idea to surround yourself with those who love and support you as you navigate the process. By doing so, and by reading up on what it takes to successfully pursue one of these claims, you might be able to put yourself on the path to a desirable outcome.