Many, if not most, of Social Security Disability (SSD) claims are routinely denied the first time. Unfortunately, the majority of claimants simply accept the denial and give up – without appealing. At Geoff McDonald & Associates, we urge you not to give up!
The chances of getting SSD benefits approved increases drastically for those who take the time to appeal – especially when your claim is heard before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) – an official who presides at an administrative trial-type hearing to resolve a dispute between a government agency and someone affected by a decision of that agency. If your legitimate SSD benefits claim has been denied, it’s important to do two things – 1) understand how the appeals process works, and 2) don’t give up.
The Appeals Process
There are four levels of appeal, 1) a request for reconsideration, 2) a request for a hearing in front of an ALJ, 3) a request for appeal by the Social Security Appeals Council, and 4) filing a lawsuit to appeal the Council’s decision in federal court.
Request for reconsideration. In most states, the first step in the appeals process is the request for reconsideration, which is simply a paper review of your case – not an in-person meeting. A request for reconsideration must be filed within 60 days or result in an “untimely appeal.” If you miss the 60 day deadline, your request for reconsideration will simply be rejected. There are very few exceptions to this deadline. However, the majority of reconsideration requests are denied unless you’ve submitted new, convincing medical information or your condition has deteriorated.
Request a hearing in front of an ALJ (Administrative Law Judge). ALJ hearings allow you to consult with the judge in person. These types of hearings can only be requested after the denial of a reconsideration appeal and must be filed within 60 days from the request for reconsideration denial. Again, missing the deadline likely stops the process altogether. Although the process can be complicated and confusing without the help of an experienced disability attorney, claimants generally have a higher rate of success in this level.
Request the Social Security Appeals Council to review the ALJ’s decision. If your claim is denied at the ALJ hearing level, you can request that the Social Security Appeals Council review the ALJ’s decision. You have 60 days to request a third review from the ALJ hearing denial date – and missing the deadline, again, likely stops the process altogether.
The Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision along with your entire case file and any additional evidence that you submit. The Council will look to see if the ALJ committed any legal or procedural errors and whether all of the evidence was properly considered. After reviewing the case file and evidence, the Council can, 1) deny your request for review, 2) remand (send back) to the ALJ for a new decision or 3) overturn the ALJ’s decision and award you disability benefits.
File a lawsuit in federal court appealing the Council’s decision. If the Appeals Council fails to overturn the ALJ’s decision, you can sue the Social Security Commissioner in federal court (you cannot sue the SSA directly). Again, you have 60 days from the Council’s decision to appeal to file a civil complaint with the United States District Court (federal court) in your area.
Geoff McDonald & Associates: Helping Injured Victims Get Benefits For Over 20 Years
Appealing a Social Security Disability claim denial can be overwhelming. If you’ve been denied SSD benefits, do not give up – without calling Geoff first. The experienced and aggressive Virginia disability attorneys at Geoff McDonald & Associates understand how frustrating it can be to get that first denial in the mail and trying to overcome the fears of an appeals process that can seem like an uphill battle. However, we know how the process works – from beginning to end – and may be able to help you increase your chances of getting the benefits you and your family deserve.
For over 20 years, we’ve been helping Virginians in the Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads, Chesapeake Bay, Northern Virginia, Central Virginia, Southern Virginia, Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Highlands and the Heart of Appalachia areas get the benefits they deserve.
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