Oct 17

The Appeals Process for Social Security Disability

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My legal assistant, Jessica Thomas‘ last article talked about the Social Security Disability Application Process. In this article, she educates us on the appeal process an applicant must go through after being denied Social Security Disability benefits. This is what she says:

The Social Security Administration denies a remarkable average of 65% of the initial applications for social security benefits. Because of this, applicants need to become familiar with the appeals process. There are generally four levels of appeal: Reconsideration, Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge, review by the Appeals Council and Federal Court review. The moment that the claim is denied is when you can file the appeal. The sooner you complete the appeal, the sooner Social Security will schedule your hearing.

After you have received the initial denial, which is usually 90-120 days after you apply, you will file a Request for Reconsideration. This appeal must be filed within 60 days from the date of the initial denial. The decision will take another 90-120 days after you file for the reconsideration. At this level of appeal, an average of 90.3% of claimant’s are denied. The Request for Reconsideration has been eliminated in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania. If you reside in one of the above listed states, the first level in the appeals process will be to Request for a Hearing by an ALJ.

When you receive your second denial, you will file a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This is the longest waiting period in the entire appeals process. It can take anywhere between 15-18 months to go to a hearing. Currently in the St. Petersburg Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, the average wait time from the time you request a hearing to the time the hearing is held is 16 months.

If you receive an unfavorable decision after the hearing, you have the option to send it to the Appeals Council for review. The Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision and all evidence of record, as well as any additional evidence submitted by the claimant. The Appeals Council can reverse the judge’s decision, remand the case or issue another denial. The average processing time was 364 days from October 2012 to September 2013.

If the Appeals Council has denied the claim, you can file a lawsuit with the federal district court. This fourth and final level of appeal can take an entire 18 months. Do keep in mind that filing a civil action with the Federal Court will incur a fee. Filing with the Federal Court can only be done after the claimant’s case has been denied by the Appeals Council or after the Appeals Council refused to hear the appeal. On average, 18.6% of claimant’s are denied at the Federal Court level. After a claimant loses to the federal court, they will either give up or file a new claim.

And as you can tell, applying for benefits is no easy process. No one should attempt to go through this appeals process without the benefit of an attorney. If you or somebody that you know has been denied Social Security benefits, please feel free to contact Social Security Disability Attorney Matthew Noyes at 727-796-8282 or click here to schedule a free consultation.

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