If You're Denied Social Security Disability Benefits, Don’t Give Up!
Every year, millions of people apply for Social Security Disability benefits. An astonishing 70 percent of those applicants will be denied by the Social Security Administration. So what happens to those that are really disabled but have been denied by the system?
Most people make one of two mistakes after getting their initial application for social Security Disability benefits denied. They give up because they feel that the process takes too long, feel overwhelmed, or they feel misunderstood or disrespected. Many others just try to re-apply for Social Security Disability benefits by themselves all over again.
So what should you do? If your case was denied; DO NOT GIVE UP! The fact that your claim was denied does not mean that you aren't disabled.
What should I do next?
If denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal. If your claim for benefits is denied, we at the Packard Law Firm, suggest that you file an appeal immediately. You can file an appeal online, by going into the local social security office in person and requesting help, or by hiring a law firm. Over 60% of everyone who appeals their denials and appears before an Administrative law judge will go on to win their case
What is the appeals process?
Generally speaking, there are four levels of appeal:
Hearing by an administrative law judge;
Review by the Appeals Council; and
Federal Court review.
A reconsideration, as the name implies, is a time when the government reconsiders or reviews your initial application. It is done by a new government employee who was not part of the initial decision. Most reconsiderations are done without any interaction with the applicant. So it comes as no surprise that around 90% of these appeals are denied.
Request for a Hearing
At this state, a hearing will be held in front of an administrative law judge. The judge is not bound by any of the previous decisions and can make a new and independent decision. Most of the time, the hearing is held in person at a designated office that should be within 75 miles of your home. At the hearing, you will give updated medical evidence and live testimony. This is where you have your best chance of obtaining a favorable decision.
The higher level of appeals: Review by the Appeals Council and Federal Court review.
Many people think that they are allowed to appeal to these courts and have their case re-evaluated. This is not the case. These appeals essentially act as the government's quality review process for the hearing with the Administrative law judge.
To overturn the ALJ's decision, these courts must find clear evidence that the ALJ’s did not follow the rules or give you a fair hearing. (i.e. the judge did not let you testify, considered evidence outside the record, or did not consider important evidence that was in the record.)
Statistically speaking, most people get denied at these level of appeals. Even those that do “win” only get the right to have a new hearing with the same judge. To make matters worse, the government is backlogged in dealing with these kind of appeals and it can easily take over a year to the appeal to be processed.
Tips from the Packard Law Firm when filing an appeal
A notice of denial from the Social Security Administration will usually explain (on the last page) the reason for the denial. They will also give a brief description of what they believe is your medical condition as well as the evidence that was considered. As you review the answer, you will want to note any inaccurate or missing information that might strengthen your appeal.
Here are five of the most common mistakes that the government makes when denying a claim that you may want to consider when filing an appeal:
The government does not know about ALL your medical problems. Some people will file disability and only share their worst medical impairment. The government is supposed to consider ALL your limitations in combination. For example, let's say that a person has carpal tunnel who worked around the issue by doing a simple stand up job that required little use of his hands. Then he has a back injury that prevents him from standing for more than two hours a day. He cannot do light duty because of his back and cannot do desk work because of his hands. Claiming both medical problems allows you to more convincingly show the government how the combined effect of ALL your limitations prevents you from being able to work full time.
The government does not have all your medical records. The government cannot consider what it does not know. Many times decisions are made because the government either did not, or could not, get all your medical records.
The government thought your medical condition would improve shortly. To be found disabled, you must have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to work full time AND that it is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. I believe that many times a government employee, who is under paid, overworked, and ready for lunch, will issue a blind denial if the disability began less than 12 months in the past. I have seen people with catastrophic injuries - the kind that leave them in a wheelchair for life get denied under this rationale.
The government’s information is not accurate or is incomplete. Set time aside to fill out the appeal forms correctly. Inaccurate or incomplete information is a common reason for many denials.
The government thinks your medical condition has improved. Many times people are dealing with a serious medical problem but they fail to get adequate treatment. If the government sees that you are not getting treatment frequently or that you are not taking your medications, it will assume that your medical complications have resolved. The best thing to do is to keep up with all your medical appointments and seek the most treatment for your condition as possible. Over time, this approach will not only prove to the Social Security Administration your medical status, it will also give you your best chance at actually recovering from your medical condition.
How the Packard Law Firm can help
Here at the The Packard Law Firm, we will do the following:
File your appeal timely
Analyze your Social Security file and make a case specific strategy
Gather additional evidence from your doctors and medical providers
Make legal arguments to an Administrative Law Judge
Help you become prepared to give convincing testimony
Cross-examine any medical and vocational experts who testify at your hearing.
Appealing a Social Security Denial can be difficult and exhausting. You do not have to go through this process alone. According to Social Security’s own statistics, people win benefits more often when they have representation than when they don’t.
The Packard Law Firm has experience with every level of appeal in the Social Security Process. Whether you need to apply for benefits or were already denied, you can trust that we know how to help. We do not charge an attorney fees unless you win benefits. Give us a call today at 210-880-9395 to schedule your free consultation.