According to Nolo, just over 2,300,000 American citizens apply for Social Security Disability benefits every year. If you've recently applied for disability benefits and were dismayed by a denial letter, the next step you need to take is to file an appeal. The appeals process can be long, harrowing and very confusing. Before you begin your application, here are a few important questions you might have, including whether you should contact an attorney:
Why Was My Disability Claim Denied?
From past brushes with the law to being uncooperative with your doctors or therapists, there are several reasons why your disability claim can be denied.
However, in many cases, a denial letter is sent for one of these reasons:
A lack of solid medical evidence is often the reason why a disability claim is denied. It's vital that when a claim is filed, all the patient's medical records are included. The more verifiable, detailed information, the more likely a claim will be accepted.
The claimant simply forgets to file all the paperwork, or filled out the paperwork incorrectly. If you are filing a claim and want to make sure it is done correctly, consider working with an attorney, such as Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law.
During the application process, your local Social Security office might request further information or ask to be seen by an additional physician. If you don't comply with every request in a timely fashion, the claim will be denied.
Once again, these are only a handful of the many reasons why a disability claim is denied. If you receive a denial and don't understand why you won't receive benefits, don't hesitate to contact your local Social Security office.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
If you haven't already hired an attorney prior to the appeals process, it's best to contact one immediately. Your attorney can go over your denial paperwork and help determine why you won't receive benefits, and what you can do to be successful during the appeals process.
For example, if you are denied your claim due to a technical error which has nothing to do with your medical condition or disability, an attorney can help ensure you fill out your appeals paperwork correctly.
Finally, one of the main reasons to hire an attorney is because the process can become very long and complicated. If you're concerned about the cost of working with an attorney, don't hesitate to determine if your lawyer will work on a contingency basis.
Basically, this means that if you don't win your disability case, your lawyer won't receive any payment.
What Happens Next?
Once you receive that initial denial letter and hire an attorney, the next step is to file the appeal. From there, the appeal process will consist of these four stages:
During the first stage, the reconsideration phase, an agent who wasn't connected to the first case will review your denial. You can work with your attorney to file additional medical information or any other paperwork necessary to have your claim accepted.
If you are denied during the reconsideration phase, your claim will be heard in front of a judge in your district. The judge will make a decision based on your evidence and testimony.
If the judge denied your claim, you can appeal it in front the Social Security Appeals council. This council will look at the judge's decision to determine if it should be overturned, or if you claim still isn't valid.
The final stage is a hearing in front of a Federal judge. This is the worst case scenario and will only be sought if you don't agree with the initial judge's decision or the decision made by the Social Security Appeals council.
The four stages of your appeals process can take several weeks or months. Be prepared to work closely with your attorney to ensure that your disability claim is being accurately represented.
Having your initial disability claim denied can be devastating, but you can still keep fighting to get the benefits you deserve. If you haven't already hired an attorney, don't wait another minute and instead, find a Social Security lawyer immediately to help you appeal your decision correctly.