If you are suffering from a physical or mental condition that severely limits or disables you to the point that you can no longer work, you may choose to pursue Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of individuals have their initial application for SSD benefits denied. If your request for SSD benefits was denied, you should know that you have options. A Dade City SSD appeal lawyer from the Disability Law Firm can help guide you through your next steps.
With more than 20 years of experience, our firm is a trusted advocate for Floridians who have been severely injured and disabled. When you choose us to help with your SSD claim, you can expect the personal care, respect, and integrity that you deserve. And with our firm’s long track record of success in SSD claims, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands.
Contact us now for a free initial consultation to go over your rights and options after your SSD application has been denied. We’re ready to help you move forward.
Common Reasons for an SSD Claim Denial
At the Disability Law Firm, some of the most common reasons we have seen for the denial of SSD benefits include:
- There were mistakes or incorrect information on the application forms.
- There was insufficient medical evidence to substantiate a qualifying disability. Although the Social Security Administration will request authorization to obtain your medical records, the examiners reviewing your application may not always obtain all the relevant records.
- The physical or mental impairment went untreated, or the applicant was non-compliant with recommended treatment. If you fail to follow your treatment instructions, the SSA may assume that you would have the capacity to work had you sought and followed through on treatment. However, you might explain a lack of treatment due to inability to pay for the treatment, a genuine religious objection to the treatment, or a second medical opinion that advised against the treatment or suggested that the treatment would not resolve your disability.
- Your disability is not expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months or to result in death.
- Your disability results from alcohol or drug addiction, if your disability would resolve itself through ceasing abuse of drugs or alcohol.
- You failed to cooperate. If the SSA cannot reach you during the review process, or you fail to provide additional documents or information when requested, or fail to appear for a consultive medical examination when requested, the SSA may choose to summarily reject your application.
- You exceed income/asset thresholds if you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
- You have insufficient work credits or recent work history if you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
- You were convicted of a crime, which will preclude you from receiving benefits while imprisoned, or your disability arose during your criminal activity.
Many of the reasons for disability benefit denials can be attributed to mistakes that could have been prevented with the assistance of experienced legal counsel.
How to Appeal a Denied Claim
If your application for disability benefits is denied after an initial review, you have the right to pursue an appeal of that denial. The appeals process of an SSD claim has four stages. At each stage, if you have received an adverse decision on your application, you only have 60 days from receiving notice of the decision to file the appropriate appeal form.
What to Expect When You File an Appeal
Here is what to expect as your claim goes through the SSD appeals process:
When you request a reconsideration of your initial application for disability benefits, different examiners from the ones who originally reviewed your application will undertake a new review. You may also submit corrections to your initial application or supply additional information or documents that may bolster your claim.
For that reason, it helps to carefully review the explanation of determination provided with the notice of denial of your application. This will explain why your application was denied and can give you guidance on what additional information you may need to submit on reconsideration.
Hearing by an administrative law judge
If the reconsideration examiner upholds the denial of your application, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. A hearing usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. Most hearings are in person. However, they can be done via teleconference or over the phone. The judge will swear in you and any other witnesses. The judge or your attorney will then ask you questions about your injury, your work, and how your disability is affecting your life. A vocational expert will also testify. Your attorney may cross examine this expert. Before concluding the hearing, the judge may ask for a closing statement or any additional comments. It usually takes one to three months to get the judge’s ruling. In some cases, it can take longer.
Review by the Appeals Council
If the administrative law judge issues an unfavorable decision, you may request to have that decision reviewed by the Social Security Administration Appeals Council. The Appeals Council may either choose to reject your request for a review if it finds no legal error by the administrative law judge, or it may accept the review and either issue its own decision or return the case back to the administrative law judge for further review of your claim.
Federal court review
Once you have exhausted the administrative appeals process with the Social Security Administration, the last step of appealing the denial of your disability benefits application involves filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court in the judicial district where you reside.
What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing
If you choose to have an in-person hearing by an administrative law judge, you should expect a relatively informal setting. Often, hearings are held in conference rooms, although in some circumstances, the hearing room may have a more formal setup with the administrative law judge sitting behind a bench or dais or wearing black judges’ robes. Your attorney will prepare you for what level of formality to expect during the hearing and how to dress and conduct yourself accordingly.
The hearing itself usually lasts for 15 minutes to an hour. At the hearing, the administrative law judge will ask you questions about your work history, financial situation, and details about your medical condition and impairments. The judge will typically hear testimony from a vocational expert regarding your impairments and your ability to perform the duties of jobs that exist in the national economy. You or your attorney can also ask questions of the experts.
How Long Does an SSD Appeal Take?
A reconsideration will usually take less time than the initial review of your SSD application, as much of the documents and information have already been collected. However, reconsideration can take still take months.
If you must request a hearing by an administrative law judge, you may be waiting up to a year for an open hearing date. Once your hearing is held, it can take one to three months for the administrative law judge to issue a decision.
Finally, if you must file a civil lawsuit to pursue a further appeal of your application, the litigation process may take anywhere from several months to upward of a few years before your lawsuit is ultimately resolved.
How a Dade City SSD Lawyer Can Help After a Denial
You can avoid making the same mistakes that led to the denial of your application by working with an experienced SSD appeals lawyer in Dade City, FL. Our dedicated team can help you with your appeal by:
- Reviewing the explanation of determination when your initial application has been denied to help you understand the basis for the denial and what you can do
- Walking you through the SSD appeals process so you know what to expect at each stage
- Gathering further information and evidence that may help support your eligibility for disability benefits
- Advocating on your behalf during the hearing before an administrative law judge if your appeal needs to go to that level
- Filing a lawsuit in federal district court, if necessary, once you have exhausted your administrative appeals with the Social Security Administration
If your SSD benefits application has been denied, contact the Disability Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation case review. We do not charge any fees upfront to work on your appeal. In fact, you only pay us if we recover payment for you. Contact us today to get started.