Workers in this country who are handed a paycheck from an employer know full well that a number of taxes are being taken from the money they have earned. One such tax goes toward Social Security benefits. Among the various provisions of the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) is the benefit known as disability insurance.
If individuals experience a long-term medical condition that incapacitates them, or they have a permanent, disabling condition that prevents them from working, they are able to apply at the SSA to receive disability payments on a monthly basis. Each year, millions of Americans apply for these benefits, wanting the applications to be approved quickly and for benefits to commence within a few months. The expectation is that the money withheld from their paychecks for all those years should be readily accessible now when it is needed.
However, applicants who are expecting a quick resolution in their favor are going to gain an eye-opening awareness of the actual way the Social Security system works. Despite there being many individuals who qualify for these disability benefits, the reality is that a mere 30 percent get approval the first time around. A large number of the rejected applicants never bother to file an appeal, perhaps out of despair or frustration. Maybe they lack confidence in their ability to overcome governmental red tape and volumes of confusing paperwork.
If individuals get denied by the SSA on their disability claim or SSI claim, it would be wise to consider the following:
- Determine why the case was not approved and find out what the denial means.
- Contact Social Security or a lawyer to file an appeal before the end of the 60-day deadline.
Within the disability process of Social Security, there are four levels when appealing. These are:
- A hearing before an administrative law judge
- A review before the Appeals Council
- A federal court review
The letter an applicant receives from the SSA concerning the denial will include instructions on appealing the decision. After an appeal is requested, SSA examines all parts of the decision, even the ones in the applicant’s favor. If it is determined that the decision was incorrect, the SSA will change it.
How Long Does an Appeal Decision Take?
As shown above, the first appeal step in most states is reconsideration. The process is one of the quickest steps, as it only requires a review by an examiner and medical consultant. This will not be the same examiner and medical consultant who made the first decision. It is possible that a decision could be handed down in a matter of only a few weeks, or it could take a few months, purely dependent upon the SSA caseload.
When a claim moves to the next stage of appeal, the administrative law judge’s hearing, the wheels of justice begin to grind much, much slower. Unfortunately, it could take a year or more to get a hearing. Once the case moves from this point to the Appeals Council, the odds are great that an answer will be delayed at least another year.
Finally, if an appeal reaches the last level – federal court – the wheels may seem like they’ve nearly come to a complete stop because it could be several years of waiting. In federal court, the judges are presiding over a wide variety of cases, not just Social Security.
Being Represented During the Appeal
Some individuals choose to handle their own appeal to the Social Security Administration. However, claimants are allowed to have an attorney, friend or other authorized representative to assist with the process. The agency works with the representative in the same manner it would for the claimant.
It is not unusual for a claimant to have no representation during the reconsideration stage, the first stage of appeal. This usually changes, though, as the appeal moves toward the hearing with an administrative law judge. The legal team at The Eichholz Law Firm has helped numerous claimants at this stage by stepping in with just the right knowledge and experience to smoothly handle this encounter.
Beginning an Appeal
When individuals have been denied disability benefits, they should first contact the local field office of the SSA and notify them of the intent to appeal the denial or termination. The office staff will mail proper forms to the claimant and give instructions on where to send the paperwork once it is completed.
Receiving Benefits During Appeal
For individuals who are already receiving benefits, but SSA chooses to discontinue the payments, there is the possibility of continuing to receive the benefits during the appeals process. The benefits could be continued through the point of the administrative law judge’s decision following a hearing if the SSA’s reason for termination was one of these:
- The claimant is no longer eligible for SSI (or the amount will be reduced)
- The claimant is no longer eligible for SSDI due to improved condition
In order to keep getting benefits in such cases, a Form SSA-795 must be completed and signed no later than 10 days after the denial notice is received. Generally, this form accompanies the termination notice from SSA.
Professional Legal Assistance Can Help
If you have just received an SSA denial notice, do not panic. Something in the process may have gone wrong, and appealing may fix it. Often, additional information can be the answer.
Rather than fight this battle alone, individuals who entrust their disability denial into the capable hands of the team at The Eichholz Law Firm find that they can breathe easier while our social security lawyers handle the entire situation.
Contact Us Right Away
Call 855-551-1019 or complete our online contact form to speak with our legal professionals.
- AARP. “How long does it take to get a hearing with Social Security to appeal a decision?”, AARP, https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/how-long-to-get-social-security-hearing.html. Accessed May 17, 2020.
- SSA. “Appeal A Decision”, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html. Accessed May 17, 2020.
SSA. “Code Of Federal Regulations”, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-1597a.htm. Accessed May 17, 2020.