Social Security Disability Appeals: Why You Need an Advocate at Your Hearing

If you are injured or disabled and your doctor has said you can no longer work, you may be considering filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Because most applicants are denied the first time they apply, it's important to file your claim as soon as your doctor says you can't work anymore. It's also important to find a Social Security Disability advocate to assist you in filing your claim. Read on to learn why having an advocate on your side is extremely beneficial in the appeals process.

Although some claimants are approved for SSD benefits the first time they file, unfortunately most are turned down on their first try. Even when a claimant's case is especially strong, just one thing wrong with the application or one missing piece of documentation can lead to rejection. For this reason, having an SSD advocate assisting you on a disability claim is extremely important and can make the difference between winning and losing your SSD benefits.

The Social Security Disability Appeal Process

If you believe that you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits but your initial claim was denied (as most are), your next step is to begin the appeals process. The appeals process can be extremely time-consuming, but don't give up. The key to winning your benefits is to keep appealing. When a Social Security Disability claim is denied at any level of the appeals process, you typically have 60 days to appeal to the next level, otherwise your claim will be kicked out of the system and you must restart from the beginning. Continuing to appeal also offers you the opportunity to provide additional evidence to prove your case.

Initial Determination and Reconsideration

If your first claim is denied, you have 60 days from the date of the initial decision to file for reconsideration. The request for reconsideration must be made in writing. During reconsideration your Social Security Disability eligibility is reviewed by someone who was not a part of the initial denial of your claim. There are a few prototype states that have eliminated the reconsideration stage. It is important to pay close attention to the instructions on your decision.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing

If you are denied during reconsideration, the next step is to request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. (Again you have 60 days to do this.) The ALJ will not have had a part in any previous decisions of your case. During the hearing, you will need to answer questions posed by the ALJ about the state of your condition. You can also present any additional evidence if available. Most claims are denied at the Initial Determination and the Reconsideration stages, so at this point, if you have not found a Social Security Disability advocate - you need to do it now!

SSD attorneys and advocates have expert knowledge regarding the laws that regulate the SSD and SSI disability approval process. They are experienced with the types of medical evidence needed to successfully support a claim, and they know the proper way to present this evidence to the Administrative Law Judge. Your advocate will know the types of questions the ALJ generally asks, and will be able to answer for you in a way that best describes your condition and represents your case. The Administrative Law Judge will then issue a decision, which can be approval of your claim or dismissal.

The Appeals Council

If your case is denied by the Administrative Law Judge, you must appeal the case to the Appeals Council. The Council can reject your review, deny your benefits, send the case back to an ALJ for another hearing, or accept your case and make a decision. At this point your advocate would make a case that points out where the ALJ on your case made reversible mistakes, or offer further evidence that supports your claim.

Filing for Social Security Disability is stressful enough without going through the SSD appeal process. It takes a lot of time, preparation and hard work - something you may not be able to do due to your disability. An SSD advocate will deal with the government so that you don't have to.

Social Security Disability advocates get paid by the government, and they only get paid once they win your case. Their fee is the same no matter when they begin working on your SSD claim, so it's in your best interests to retain an advocate from the very beginning. They can help you fill out your initial claim and help you find all of the paperwork and documentation that you need. Even if you've already had an application denied you can still hire an advocate for your appeals case, however. They'll assist you in finding additional information for your appeals case and prepare you for your hearing, so you can have the best outcome possible.

If you're disabled and you can't work anymore, you don't have to take on the government all by yourself. Hire an SSD advocate to handle your SSD or SSI claim and they will take the stress off your shoulders and significantly improve your chances of success.

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Binder & Binder® was formed in 1975 to help clients all over America obtain Social Security Disability benefits. As America's Most Successful Social Security Disability Advocates®, they have served tens of thousands of people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and all U.S. territories in matters of Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income.

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