A large part of our practice at Collins Price revolves around appealing Social Security disability denials. In fact, many of the Social Security claimants we represent contact us for the first time after their initial application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) has been denied.
If your claim has been denied, rest assured that there are several steps you can take to appeal your denial. But you need to act quickly once you receive the denial to ensure you meet Social Security’s deadlines.
Timing is Everything
When you file an application for either the SSDI or the SSI program, Social Security will send you a document, called a “Notice of Decision.” That decision could be favorable, or it could be a denial. If Social Security denies your claim on their Notice of Decision, generally, you have 60 days to appeal.
It is VERY important if you intend to appeal a denial that you comply with the program’s 60-day window for appeals. If you decide to work with a disability lawyer, be sure to reach out to them in advance of that 60-day window to ensure they can process and evaluate your claim in plenty of time.
It’s also very important to maintain a copy of the Notice of Decision for your files and for your representative to review so they can determine the reasons why your claim was denied and where your claim is in the appeal process.
Different Types of Appeals
Once you have made the decision to appeal a denied claim, you’ll have access to four different levels of appeals. Let’s review Social Security’s definition of each type of appeal below:
Reconsideration: A reconsideration is a complete review of your claim by someone who did not take part in the first determination. During this process, Social Security will look at all the evidence submitted used in the original determination, plus any new evidence. Reconsideration can be medical or non-medical depending on the reasons why your claim was denied at the initial step.
Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge: If your claim is denied at the reconsideration level, you can request a hearing conducted by an administrative law judge who had no part in the original determination or the reconsideration of your case. The hearing is usually held within 75 miles of your home.
Appeals Council Review: If your claim progresses to a hearing with the administrative law judge and you disagree with their decision, you can request an Appeals Council Review. The Appeals Council looks at all requests for review, but it may deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was supported and in accordance with Social Security law and regulations. If the Appeals Council decides to review your case, it will either decide your case itself or return it to an administrative law judge for further review.
Federal Court Review: Finally, as the last step in the appeals process, if you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, or if the Appeals Council decides not to review your case, you can file a civil suit in a federal district court. This is the last level of the appeals process. It’s important to note that if you’re working with a representative, it’s best to work with an attorney, not just a disability advocate, who can file a lawsuit accordingly.
In summary, while it can be discouraging to receive notice from Social Security that your claim has been denied, there are many steps you can take to reverse or appeal their decision. We work with many clients who have had those decisions reversed and encourage you to contact a qualified disability lawyer you can evaluate your denial and likelihood for future success.