In the fiscal year 2020, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied a majority (61%) of social security disability (SSD) applications. This means that only 39% of applicants were granted benefits. If you find yourself among the 6 in 10 individuals whose SSD application was denied, it’s understandable to be concerned about your financial future. However, there is still a good chance that your application can be approved through the SSD’s appeals process.
Understanding the Appeals Process
There are four levels in the appeals process for SSD applications:
- Administrative hearing
- Appeals Council
- Federal District Court
Unfortunately, the approval rate for disability applications during the reconsideration phase is quite low, even lower than the initial application stage. In fact, in FY 2020, only 14% of applications were approved during reconsideration. However, this discouraging statistic shouldn’t deter you. The reconsideration phase is a necessary step in the appeals process and sets the stage for an administrative hearing, where the approval rate increases to approximately 45%. Here are some steps you can take to improve your chances of being among the 1 in 10 who win their SSDI reconsideration. Watch our short video to learn more.
Submit Your Appeal on Time
The SSA will notify you of their decision via mail. If your SSD application is denied, you have 60 days from the date mentioned on the denial letter to file an appeal. Meeting this deadline is crucial. Failure to do so may result in the SSA refusing to consider your appeal, leaving you with the only option of restarting the application process and facing a longer wait without benefits.
Complete the Correct Paperwork
During the reconsideration phase, your application will be reviewed by a different disability determination officer. While it may seem like a chance to simply resubmit your initial application, that is not the case. You need to submit three additional forms for the SSA to consider your appeal. These forms allow you to provide information that was unavailable when you initially applied:
Request for Reconsideration: Use this form to state the reason for your appeal and explain why you believe the SSA’s decision was incorrect. Although the form provides limited space for your reasoning, you can attach additional sheets to further elaborate on why their decision was in error.
Disability Report: This report allows you to include new information about your medical condition that was not available when you first applied. It’s not about remembering to add previously forgotten information but rather presenting any developments since your initial application. This may include additional diagnoses, tests, treatments attempted, or explanations for why previous treatments were discontinued.
Authorization to Disclose Information: By filling out this form, you authorize the SSA to request relevant information about your medical condition and its impact on your ability to work from various sources such as doctors, therapists, rehabilitation counselors, employers, and even friends or family members.
Explain Why the SSA’s Decision Was Incorrect
As mentioned earlier, the Request for Reconsideration form only provides three lines for explaining why you believe the SSA made the wrong decision in denying your SSD application. To effectively convey your reasons, it’s advisable to write them on a separate sheet of paper and attach it to your appeal.
Your goal should be to clearly and concisely explain why the SSA’s decision was incorrect. While the SSA won’t explicitly state why they denied your application or what they found lacking, it is safe to assume that the information you originally provided did not adequately convey the negative impact of your disability on your ability to work.
Rather than simply restating the same information and hoping for a different outcome, take a look at what you included in your initial application. Consider how you can elaborate on it to create a clearer and more accurate picture of how your disability affects your work. For instance, if you initially mentioned that you cannot stand for long periods, this explanation is subjective and open to interpretation. Instead, provide specific examples that illustrate your point, such as, “I cannot stand for extended periods. For every hour of standing, I need to sit and elevate my feet for 10-15 minutes to alleviate swelling.” The more specific and detailed your explanation of how your disability impacts your ability to work, the greater your chances of success during reconsideration.
Provide New Medical Information
The average wait time for a decision on your initial SSD application is approximately 5 ½ months. During this period, it’s likely that you have had more doctor’s visits, received additional treatments, and possibly even abandoned unsuccessful treatments. These developments further document your medical condition.
Make sure to include any new medical information when you submit your request for reconsideration. This information not only strengthens the case for your medical condition and its impact on your ability to work but also demonstrates that your condition has not improved, making a return to work impossible.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
While it is not necessary to have a social security disability attorney when applying for SSD benefits, having one can significantly improve your chances of approval. SSD attorneys specialize in these cases and handle them at every stage of the process. They possess the knowledge of what information is most likely to result in approval, as well as the best way to present it, increasing the overall likelihood of being awarded benefits. It’s important to note that disability attorneys only receive payment if your application is approved, and their fees are set by the SSA.
At Garrity Traina, we have more than 30 years of experience handling social security disability cases at every level of the appeals process. Contact us at Garrity Traina to schedule a free case evaluation and let us guide you through the SSDI reconsideration process.
Note: The original article contained a promotional message for The Good Law Group. To maintain brand focus for Garrity Traina, that content has been omitted.