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The Social Security Disability Appeals Process

Nov. 29, 2021

Did you file for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits and were denied? Unfortunately, this is a very common experience as most SSD claims and SSI claims are denied on the initial application. Actually, most Social Security claims are denied on the initial application and on the first appeal stage, Request for Reconsideration. This article will discuss the Social Security appeals process for Social Security Disability claims and SSI claims.

The first step in trying to obtain Social Security Disability benefits, both SSI and SSD, is to file the application. I highly recommend that you allow a skilled Social Security attorney like Justen Grech at the grech Law Firm to file the application for you. This way, the attorney can control the wording of the application rather than someone who is working for Social Security controlling the wording of the application. Once an application is filed, Social Security will forward your claim to Disability Determination Service (DDS) to make a decision on the claim. DDS will then send you a packet of forms to fill out about one month after filing the application. If I am representing you, I will fill these forms out for you and mail them back to DDS. About one month after you receive the forms, or two months after you file the SSD or SSI application, DDS may set you an appointment to see one of their doctors, which is called a consultative examination. This appointment will be free to you, but you will have to attend. A few months after that, or about 4-5 months after filing the Social Security application, you will get a decision. The first decision is typically a denial which is called a Notice of Disapproved claim.

If you receive a SSD or SSI denial called a Notice of Disapproved claim, the next step in the Social Security process is to Request Reconsideration. Keep in mind, once you receive a denial for SSD or SSI benefits, you only have 60 days in which to appeal the decision. If I am representing you, I will timely file this appeal for you. Once you file a Request for Reconsideration, it will take Social Security about 4-6 months to make a decision. Your claim will be sent back up to DDS and you may receive the same packet of forms as you did in the initial application and you may be sent to their doctor again. Unfortunately, the Request for Reconsideration is basically a rubber stamp denial of the initial denial. It is rare to win a SSD or SSI claim on reconsideration. If you are denied SSD or SSI benefits at the reconsideration stage, you will receive a notice called Notice of Reconsideration.

If you receive a Notice of Reconsideration denial, the next step in the Social Security appeals process is to Request a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If I am representing you, I will timely file this appeal as well. Once a Request for Hearing is filed, it will take several months to have a Judge assigned to your claim and then several more months to have a hearing date. Right now, we are seeing it take from 10-12 months after filing your initial application to have a hearing. However, it is critically important that you follow through with your Social Security Disability claim and SSI claim to the hearing level as this is where the vast majority of Social Security Disability claims are won! At the hearing level, a judge can issue a Fully Favorable Decision, a Partially Favorable Decision, or an Unfavorable Decision. If you receive a Partially Favorable Decision or an Unfavorable Decision, you have 60 days to appeal to the Appeals Council.

The Appeals Council is the final administrative stage of appeals within the Social Security process. If you are denied by a judge and Request a Review at the Appeals Council, the Appeals Council will assign an appeals judge to review your entire file and decide whether they agree with you or whether they agree with the lower judge. An appeals judge can do one of three things: they can vacate the lower judge's decision and remand the case for a new hearing, they can reverse the lower judge's decision and award you benefits, or they can agree with the lower judge and uphold the finding that you are not disabled.

If you hire the Grech Law Firm, we will navigate this complex process and ensure all deadlines are met and we will vigorously represent you throughout the entire process.