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Next Stage: Reconsideration
Winning and Losing
Eventually, you will get a decision letter from Social Security in the mail. It will be a notice that tells you if your case has been approved or denied. Unfortunately, the majority of initial applications are denied. If you are lucky enough to win at the initial stage, you will start to receive benefits in a few months.
If you are like most people, and you don’t win at the initial stage, you or your advocate have more work to do. You’ll have 60 days in which to appeal the decision. Unless you can think of a good reason not to, we advise that you always appeal. You have nothing to lose at this point, and starting over just adds time to your case. In some states, not appealing prevents you from re-applying. The SSA is not hesitant to apply a complicated legal doctrine, res judicata, to forever bar your future applications. You can also appeal a “partially favorable” decision and argue your condition began when you say it began, not five months ago.
The Reconsideration Stage
When you appeal the initial application decision, you move on to the second stage, which is called Reconsideration. The idea here is to give you one more shot with the analysts at the State Agency. Social Security promises that a different analyst will look at your case the second time around.
To get to Reconsideration, you must inform Social Security that you want to appeal within 60 days of the date of the initial denial. Do not miss that deadline! You can file the appeal by going directly to the Social Security office. If you have a representative, pay them a visit, send them an email, or give them a call. Each day you wait to appeal is another day your case is collecting dust. Get moving as soon as possible.
To file for Reconsideration, you will fill out two main forms. The first is the actual request for Reconsideration, SSA-561. The second is called SSA-3441, and it allows you to provide any updated information about your condition since you first filed. Answer it honestly, but don’t sell yourself short. Believe it or not, we often see clients who told Social Security in the 3441 that their condition had not changed, but then tell us in person that it had gotten worse. If you feel better, tell them; if you feel any decline, tell them. The 3441 form also asks for updates on your doctors. Tell Social Security of any new treatment you are getting. This will help them as they try to figure out if the initial decision was right or wrong. Make sure to attach medical records if you have any new evidence about your condition.
Just like with the Initial Application, the Reconsideration usually takes 3-6 months, although it is often a bit quicker than the first stage decision. You can use that time wisely again: See your doctors and check up on your case. Unfortunately, your odds of winning at the Reconsideration stage are just about as bad as they were at the Initial Application stage. Be prepared for another appeal, and be sure to contact Social Security or your advocate when you get the Reconsideration notice in the mail.
After Reconsideration, you have the right to appeal again. This time, it moves your case out of the analysts’ hands and into the hands of a judge. The stage is set for the hearing.
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