You have put in years of hard work and have paid into the Social Security system for all of those years. Now that you have suffered an illness or injury and are unable to work, you feel like that system should support you. However, your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was denied. The first thing you should know is that you are not alone. In fact, only about 30 percent of initial SSDI claims are approved each year. The second thing you should know is that you can appeal the SSA’s decision and possibly get the benefits you need and deserve. We explain how the appeal process works and what your chances are of success.
Why Indiana SSDI Applications Are Often Denied
First-time SSDI applications are often denied for just a handful of reasons, including not proving disability to the SSA’s standards, applying too soon or too late, not sending the right kind of evidence, and not following your doctor’s orders. If your application is denied for one of these reasons—or another reason—you generally have 60 days to appeal the decision and try to get a reversal.
SSDI Levels of Appeal
There are four levels of appeal in the SSA’s process. The determination letter you received from the SSA should have included information about the appeal process and which level of appeal you should select. In general, applicants will go through the following levels:
- Reconsideration. At this level, you are simply requesting that your original file be reviewed a second time by a new panel. You can request a reconsideration if you were denied for medical reasons, such as not meeting SSA standards for disability, or non-medical reasons, such as missed deadlines or lack of evidence. Both requests for reconsideration can be made online. Only about 5-10 percent of denials are overturned at this level.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. If your request for reconsideration is denied, you can request an in-person hearing with an administrative law judge. If approved for a hearing, it will take place within 75 miles of your home. You may be accompanied by an attorney at this hearing, who may speak on your behalf. You may present evidence and testimony from witnesses and will be asked questions by the judge. About 50 percent of these hearings result in benefits being awarded to the applicant.
- Appeals Council. If the ALJ denies your appeal, you can then request a review by the appeals council. This body will review the ALJ hearing to look for abuse of discretion, error of law, procedural error, or a decision not supported by evidence. If it finds any of these, it can reverse the ALJ’s decision. However, only about 2-3 percent of appeals to this council are successful.
- Federal Court Review. To file a lawsuit in U.S. federal court, you must have exhausted the previous three steps. If you have not used a lawyer up to this point, you will need one now. This is an expensive and time-consuming process but often results in the judge forcing the SSA to reconsider your application.
Your best chance of a successful appeal comes at the second level—the Administrative Law Judge hearing, but you must be prepared to present new or more convincing evidence than you did in your original application. The best way to do that is to work with an experienced SSDI attorney.
The Sooner You Call Keller & Keller, the Better
An attorney can often make a difference at any level of the SSDI application process, but the sooner you work with an experienced advocate, the more likely you are to be successful. The Indiana attorneys at Keller & Keller can help with your initial application or can guide you through the appeal process. Call us to discuss your disability application in a free consultation today. We want to help you get the benefits you deserve.