A lawyer for Social Security disability appeal can help at any stage of your disability claim, even if you’re just beginning the application process. When facing the possibility of a benefits denial and an arduous appeals process, the right legal advocate can prove an invaluable asset to have in your corner.
Unfortunately, many who apply for SSDI benefits are initially denied. The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that only 28% of those who apply for benefits receive approval at this initial stage. Those denied may need to go through multiple appeals to have a chance at winning their benefits.
Submitting an appeal means the facts of your claim may be reconsidered.
However, even this doesn’t guarantee success. Appeals may fail for a variety of reasons, including insufficient evidence to prove your disability, earning too much income, missing or incomplete documents, and other reasons that may be out of your control.
When an appeal fails, don’t give up.
There are several levels of appeal available to denied SSDI claimants, as well as potential actions to take beyond these.
The main levels of appeal include:
- Request that your claim be reconsidered by another SSA reviewer.
- Request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
- Request the Appeals Council to review a decision.
- File a federal appeal.
Each stage of appeal can be complex and require time and effort to resolve. Having the right information and evidence, as well as the assistance of a qualified disability attorney, can increase your chances of a positive outcome.
Georgia disability lawyers like Affleck & Gordon have the experience and knowledge to guide you through this process. An attorney can help you prepare for each level of appeal and advise you on what to do should your appeals fail.
Table of Contents:
- Stages of Social Security Disability Appeal
- Next Steps When Disability Appeals Fail
- Hiring a Lawyer for Social Security Disability Appeal
Stages of Social Security Disability Appeal
If your SSDI application is denied, you typically have 60 days after a denial to apply for an appeal. It’s important to know what to expect at each stage to give yourself the best possible chance to succeed.
Should your initial disability application be denied, you can request to have your application reconsidered by a different SSA reviewer.
Reconsideration lets you provide new evidence without needing to file a new claim for the same disability. Reconsideration is typically a better option for claimants, especially since filing a new claim can affect your protective filing date and the amount of back pay you receive, should you later be approved.
You can have your claim reconsidered whether you were denied for a medical reason or a non-medical reason such as income or living arrangements. The SSA will tell you the reasons you were denied in writing.
When requesting reconsideration, as with all stages of your claim, you should provide the most up-to-date and complete information possible regarding your medical condition, work history, and other evidence. The SSA will make a decision based on the evidence submitted with your initial claim, as well as any new evidence you provide when requesting reconsideration.
When you consult an attorney for your Social Security disability appeal, they can help determine what evidence was missing from your initial claim and what additional information you should provide at the reconsideration stage.
Should the SSA uphold their denial after reconsideration, the next step is to request a hearing.
Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
A hearing is often your best chance to win your benefits, as it allows you to present your case before an administrative law judge, or ALJ.
Due to COVID-19, offices were closed for in-person hearings until late last year, and in-person hearings have been limited to high-priority cases. Hearings are also offered remotely via telephone or as an online video hearing.
The ALJ may decide to call witnesses during your hearing such as medical or vocational experts. While you aren’t required to have legal counsel present for your hearing, a disability lawyer can greatly improve your chances of approval at the hearing stage.
An attorney can help you prepare and submit evidence for your hearing, advise you on what to expect during questioning, and can even cross-examine you and other witnesses who testify at your hearing.
Georgia disability lawyers have a working knowledge of the local court systems and can provide important insights into judges’ expectations during the hearing stage.
If you disagree with the outcome of your hearing, you can request that the SSA’s Appeals Council review the ALJ’s decision. However, the Appeals Council may deny your request for a review if they find that the judge followed proper social security law and regulations in making their decision.
The Appeals Council may decide your case themselves if they agree to review it, or they may send it to an ALJ to be reviewed.
Note that you can still submit new evidence about your case when requesting an Appeals Council review. An attorney can help you determine what types of evidence to submit to the Appeals Council.
You may decide to file a civil suit to fight for your benefits in a federal district court. You must submit an official complaint explaining why you disagree with the SSA’s decision. The legal process at the federal level can be extremely complex, and your best bet is to hire a disability lawyer who is familiar with the court systems to represent you.
A judge will consider the evidence presented by your lawyer and the SSA’s legal counsel, and then will decide either to rule against you, have an ALJ grant you another hearing, or award you benefits.
Next Steps When Disability Appeals Fail
If you exhaust your appeals options, there are still some additional actions you can take.
For instance, once the SSA closes your case, you may be able to reopen a prior claim by submitting a new claim for a related disability. This option should normally only be considered once you’ve exhausted all appeals options, since reopening a claim can be difficult and takes additional time.
A claim can only be reopened if the SSA finds that the new claim you file is related to the original claim, and the onset falls within the covered timeframe of the original claim.
You’re also less likely to be able to reopen a claim the longer you wait after the claim was closed.
Barring this, you may still be able to open a completely new claim when you become eligible to reapply.
Discuss your options with an experienced attorney for navigating Social Security disability appeals and next steps.
Hiring a Lawyer for Social Security Disability Appeal
A majority of SSDI applicants are initially denied benefits, and appeals can take months if not years to resolve. You want to give yourself the best chance for successful appeals and know what to do at each step, without being overwhelmed by the many technical legal details that go into making a successful claim.
You don’t have to face this challenge alone.
When you hire a lawyer for your Social Security disability appeal, you’ll receive the guidance and support you need to take the right actions at the right time, with the confidence that your attorney will advocate for you and fight for the benefits you deserve.
You typically won’t pay an up-front lawyer's fee for a Social Security disability case. For most cases, your lawyer will be paid directly from your initial back pay if you win your case—up to 25% or $6,000, whichever amount is lower. If you don’t win your claim, you don’t pay.
You don’t have to wait until you’re denied to consult an attorney. Disability lawyers at Affleck & Gordon can help at any stage of your claim, from the moment you decide to file for benefits.
If you or your family are filing a Social Security Disability claim or your claim has been denied, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping disabled people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Once you have applied online for benefits, sign up for a free case evaluation here, and call us at 404-795-7449.