Millions of people in the United States have a disability that renders them incapable of working and earning income for themselves and their families. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has put two disability programs into place: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While both programs are intended to assist those financially with an impairing disability, many initial disability claims are denied. In fact, about 53 percent of applications between 2001 and 2010 were denied, according to an SSA report.
If you’ve applied for disability benefits and your claim has been denied, the fight is not over yet — you have the right to appeal your case. You first may apply for reconsideration of your denied claim.
What is reconsideration?
When a claim for disability benefits is denied, the first step of fighting the decision is to file a request for reconsideration. A reconsideration involves a thorough review of your case and application.
The Disability Determination Services (DDS) branch of the Social Security Administration performs the reconsideration. Rather than having the reconsideration completed by the same individuals who assessed your claim the first time, other individuals not involved in the original application review will do the reconsideration. Unfortunately, only a small number of claims that are reconsidered are approved.
What if my reconsideration is denied?
In many cases, a reconsideration is not effective in getting a person the benefits that he or she needs. In the case your reconsideration is denied, you will have the right to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. In the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your case, as well as any new and relevant medical evidence. Beware — the SSA may present expert witnesses who could testify against your claim and ask technical questions for which you may be unprepared. You have 60 days from the notice of denial to file any type of appeal, including a hearing or Appeals Council review.
An Appeals Council and Federal Court Review
If your hearing isn’t successful, an Appeals Council may select your case for review. While you can request a review by the Appeals Council, the decision to review (and approve) your case is at the discretion of the Council. Finally, the last step in the process of getting your disability claim approved is at the federal court level. If all other steps have been unsuccessful or if the Appeals Council does not hear your case, you can file a lawsuit in federal district court.
Seeking the Assistance of a Disability Attorney in Pennsylvania
When it comes to the reconsideration process, the Social Security Administration simply will review the claim that was already denied. If you did not submit complete evidence of your disability and qualifications for disability benefits, then it may be denied once again. Once you take the case to the ALJ, Appeals Council and federal district court, you may require an attorney to help you present a valid case that you qualify for benefits. Your attorney also can handle any technical questions that the SSA may throw your way during the appeals process.
If your claim for benefits has been denied, seek legal representation with attorney Patrick J. Best of ARM Lawyers. Patrick J. Best can help you gather all of the necessary documents, formulate your case and guide you through the appeals process to help you recover fair benefits to which you are entitled. For assistance now, call us today at 570-257-4509 (Stroudsburg), 484-765-8140 (Palmerton), or 610-849-2788 (Bethlehem) or use our online contact form.