According to a 2018 Social Security Administration (SSA) report, 22% of initial claims are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). That means that more than 60% of initial claims are denied for technical or medical reasons--the remaining percentage of cases are those won on appeal. So if you find yourself needing a lawyer for a Social Security disability appeal, rest assured, you are not alone.
Why Appeal Your SSDI Denial?
A system with such high denials of initial claims may seem skewed against the applicant, but these numbers deserve a closer look. Technical denials hit a high of over 40% of all denials in 2017. In general, technical denials can’t be appealed because you are ineligible for the program. However, you may be eligible for other forms of assistance. It’s important to get a free consultation regarding your claim to be sure.
What are the Reasons for a Technical Denial of SSDI?
- Earning too much (over $1310 per month for 2021) means an immediate technical denial.
- You are unreachable to the SSA. If they try to locate you in the system and cannot, it’s a technical denial.
- You must be under full retirement age and have paid enough into Social Security over time.
- You haven’t worked recently enough. In general, you will have had to have worked for five out of the past 10 years to receive disability benefits.
Medical Denials make up 22.9% of denials in 2017. In most cases of medical denials, the claimant provided insufficient evidence of the disability. This means that for your appeal, you’ll need to provide additional evidence to bolster your claim.
The remaining percentages of claimants who don’t receive benefits on their initial claim have been awarded benefits on reconsideration, their case is pending final decision, or they’ve been awarded benefits following a hearing. If your initial claim was denied, you want to be in that category of the claimant–one who is awarded benefits following a successful appeal. The most promising way for you to find success is with the help of a local disability lawyer.
Where do I Begin if I’ve Been Denied Disability for Medical Reasons?
- You have 60 days to file an appeal, so don’t delay seeking free consultation regarding your case with a lawyer for a Social Security disability appeal.
- Provide your lawyer with a list of medical providers, dates of service, and documentation of the conversations you’ve had with your doctors about their opinions on your physical limitations.
- Remember, a doctor’s testimony can strengthen your appeal.
- If you’re beyond the 60-day limit for appeal, contact an attorney immediately. They may still be able to help with your appeal.
How Do I File for an Appeal?
Depending on the specifics of your case, you have several options on how to proceed. Your disability lawyer can help you choose the right path.
The primary way to file an appeal is online, but you can also file by phone, fax, or mail in a paper appeal. Keep in mind that most people are denied initially, and many are denied more than once. The key to a successful benefits appeal is to not give up.
The steps to an appeal are reconsideration by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and then a request for a hearing. Only a small percentage of claimants are approved at the reconsideration stage. In 2017, only 1.7% were approved at reconsideration. Because many cases stretch out over years, rather than months, in 2017 an all-time high of 14.7% of cases was left pending their final outcome at the end of the year, and were not resolved. If you are denied at the hearing stage, you can request a review by the appeals council. If you are denied there, your final recourse is to request a federal court review.
What Should I Expect from a Hearing?
It’s imperative that you have a strong and experienced disability lawyer at your hearing. They will make oral arguments and sometimes submit a written argument to the judge (ALJ) assigned to hear your case. They and their team of dedicated case managers will make sure that your medical records are complete, that you have completed all required paperwork and documentation of how your medical condition directly impacts your ability to work, and they’ll answer any questions you have about the appeals process. Your attorney will have reviewed sometimes thousands of pages of medical records, and they have to take all of that information, and convince a judge within a small time frame--typically 30-60 minutes--why you as the claimant are disabled. Thorough preparation from your attorney is critical for the best possible results at your hearing. A judge will take positive notice of a prepared attorney.
Tips for Your Hearing:
- Keep your attorney updated with any changes to your medical status as you prepare and await your hearing.
- If your contact information, address, or phone number changes during this time, update your legal representative as soon as possible.
- Ask questions if and when you don’t understand part of the appeals process. This helps your attorney explain the areas of law that are confusing, and it's your right to know.
- Trust your experienced attorney to help you navigate the appeals process.
For the Social Security Administration Atlanta, the average wait time for a disability hearing is 14 to 15 months. This varies depending on which hearing office you are assigned to based on your residence. The SSA is attempting different programs to speed up the waiting times, but there is still usually a significant wait for your day at hearing.
You don’t have to navigate your Social Security disability appeal alone. At Affleck & Gordon, we are here to help our clients win the disability that they deserve, and we understand how stressful the process can be. We’ve helped over 40,000 people in Georgia receive disability, workers’ compensation, or Veterans disability for over 40 years. We’re here to help you, too.
If your Supplemental Security Income claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us at (404) 373-1649.