Most disability applications are denied at the initial stages, and SSA examiners are known for denying more claims than they approve. But the good news is that you can request an appeal. An experienced Columbus OH disability lawyer can guide you through the Social Security disability appeal process, as well as ensure that you avoid costly mistakes. Contact Nesbit Law Office to learn more.
What Are the 4 Levels of a Social Security Disability Appeal?
If you were denied benefits, the SSA will send a notice of denial, which will include instructions for appealing. There are four levels of appeal:
- Hearing by an administrative law judge;
- Review by the Appeals Council; and
- Federal court review.
If you are denied disability benefits at one level of appeal, you can move to the next.
1. Request for Reconsideration
You will have 60 days from the date of the denial to submit a request for reconsideration. At this level of appeal, the SSA assigns an examiner who was no involved in the first denial to review your case. They will examine all of the evidence from the original request as well as any new evidence you have submitted.
In most cases, reconsideration does not require that you meet with the SSA. However, you can present your case to the SSA, letting them know that your medical condition has not improved.
You can appeal two types of denials through reconsideration:
- Medical: Determination that your condition does not necessitate benefits or has improved.
- Non-medical: Determination that you do not qualify for benefits due to your income, overpayments, or living arrangement.
You can also request the SSA to reconsider two types of disability claims upon appeal: your original claim, or a continuing claim. A reconsideration of continuing claim usually occurs because SSA ended your benefits based on a continuing disability review (CDR). The review may have found that you can now work or you failed to cooperate with the CDR.
2. Administrative Law Judge Hearing
If your claim is denied at reconsideration, the next level of appeal is a hearing before an administrative law judge. You will have 60 days from the date of denial from reconsideration to request this hearing.
Administrative law judges are SSA attorneys who will uphold or overturn an earlier denial or termination of disability benefits. They will hold a hearing typically within 75 miles of your residence.
Prior to the hearing, the judge might request more evidence or clarification on information in your case. You can also provide more evidence for the judge to consider.
The hearing will be attended by the judge, you, your attorney, your witnesses, and medical or vocational experts. During the hearing, your attorney and the judge will ask you, your witnesses, and the experts questions.
The judge will make a decision after the hearing based on all the evidence presented. If you are denied again, you can appeal the administrative law judge’s decision to the Appeals Council.
3. Appeals Council Review
The Appeals Council will consider all requests for review. It can, at its discretion, deny, dismiss, or grant your request. It can dismiss your request without review if it agrees with the administrative law judge’s decision. If the Appeals Council grants your request, it can:
- Approve or deny your benefits, or
- Return your case to an administrative law judge for another hearing.
The Appeals Council will grant your request if it thinks the administrative law judge’s decision was made in error. They might find that the administrative law judge abused their discretion or made an error of law.
For example, they may not have allowed your attorney to cross-examine the expert witnesses. The administrative law judge could have also made a policy or procedural error. For example, they could have not notified you of your right to cross-examine expert witnesses. The administrative law judge’s decision may also not be supported by substantial evidence.
Your chances of winning your claim before the Appeals Council are low. However, it’s a necessary step to take in order to have a federal court review your appeal.
4. Federal Court Review
Your final chance to appeal a denial of Social Security disability benefits is to sue the SSA. You can file a lawsuit in U.S. district court if the Appeals Court denied or dismissed your case.
A federal judge will hear your disability case without a jury. They will review your case and overturn a denial based on legal error or lack of consideration of all evidence. If so, they will reverse the administrative law judge or Appeals Council decision or send the case back to them.
Will Your Social Security Benefits Continue During Appeal?
You may request that your disability benefits continue to be paid while you are awaiting an appeal decision. This request can be made if your appeal is based on a determination that:
- Your condition has improved;
- You are not eligible for benefits; or
- Your benefits should be reduced or suspended.
Your request for your benefits to continue must be made within ten days of the notice of denial.
An Experienced Columbus OH Disability Attorney Can Help
Submitting a Social Security disability appeal is a complicated process that could months or even years to complete. Hiring an experienced disability lawyer will help you avoid mistakes that could delay your case or result in another denial. Speak to a Columbus OH disability attorney at Nesbit Law Office to learn more about how to deal with a benefits denial.