You’re going to have a significant period of uncertainty after initially applying for SSDI or SSI because the initial review process takes anywhere from three to four months to reply to your claim. If you receive a notification of rejection, there is a high likelihood that the reason is a lack of evidence and/or documentation. It’s critical to ensure that the Disability Determination Services (DDS), the arm of the Social Security Administration that deals with accepting or rejecting your application, has access to your medical records. If they do not have this access, you will be denied. Your medical records should be thorough and should have details about what ailments you’re suffering from and, most importantly, how you’re treating them. The treatment aspect of this is critical because the DDS wants to see that your treatment is not helping you get back to work. If they see that your treatment is working or helping your disability you may be denied because they will assume that you will be working again soon
The first thing to realize is that less than 40% of initial applications are accepted, so you’re not in a unique or unusual circumstance – don’t panic. To continue your application process, you will need to appeal this decision. Understanding the general process of an appeal can make this part of the process much easier.
The denial of your initial claim will state the reason your claim was denied, and also a deadline for appealing the decision. If you decide to appeal the decision, you will need to file a “request for reconsideration,” which is resubmitting the same paperwork for another representative to review. This step in the appeal process is a good opportunity to submit new information like medical history and proof of your disability. This is also a good opportunity to get a social security disability attorney involved. An attorney with experience is familiar with this part of the appeals process and will know how to guide you during this process.
It’s important to note that this part of the appeals process has a low success rate. If you are appealing an application rejection, you will most likely move onto the disability hearing stage of the appeals process. The next section has a much higher success rate.
After having your request for reconsideration denied, you will need to apply for an SSA hearing within sixty days. This part of the appeals process is quite long and may take up to a year, but it also has the highest success rate, at around 50%. This is also a good time to hire a social security disability attorney.
During your hearing, there will be many people present including the judge, who will question you about your condition, and there may be medical or vocational experts who can testify to your condition and how it may or may not prevent you from returning to work. At this stage, you must be represented by a lawyer. The attorney’s role is not only to prepare you for questioning but also to cross-examine the expert witnesses that may be denying your need for disability payments. This portion of the process can be intimidating but it’s important to understand that this is the part of the process where you have the greatest chance of success for getting your claim approved and that you also are accompanied by an expert, your disability attorney.
If you are denied benefits at DDS hearing, you can pursue a review by the Appeals Council, but it is important to note that very few appeals are successful at this stage. This review can take more than six months and the process starts by filing a Request for Review at the Appeals Council within sixty days of the Appeals Hearing decision. If you are denied here, you can request for your case to be reviewed by a Federal District Court. They will either approve or deny your claim – or possibly send you back to the SSA to have your claim reviewed again. This is the final step in the SSD claims process.