Appealing A Social Security Disability Determination

If your disability claim is denied, you have the right to file an appeal of the denial. You have a sixty-five day total appeal period from the date of your disability denial notice to appeal your disability decision.

If you choose to file an appeal, you will file what is known as a request for reconsideration. You can file your own reconsideration online or you can complete paper reconsideration appeal forms. Whether you file your reconsideration online, or by paper, you must return signed medical release forms (so the disability examiner who eventually gets your case can send for the medical records) to Social Security. Just a reminder, even if you file everything online you must return your signed medical release forms in order for Social Security to send it back to the state disability agency for a decision.

The reconsideration appeal is sent to the same state disability agency (DDS, or disability determination services) that made your initial disability claim decision; however, a different disability examiner will make your reconsideration determination. Do not be discouraged if your reconsideration appeal is denied as well. There are very few reconsideration approvals, because disability examiners have very little flexibility in making their medical decisions.

For most disability applicants, the reconsideration appeal is simply a necessary step to eventually get to a disability hearing. If you receive a reconsideration denial notice, you once again have sixty-five days to file your request for a disability hearing.

As with the request for reconsideration, the request for a hearing can be done online or on paper. You can file the appeal and complete the disability report form online or on paper but, but unlike the reconsideration appeal, you do not actually have to return the medical release forms to Social Security in order for your appeal to be sent to the hearings office.

Administrative law judge hearings are an individual's best chance of winning their disability claim if they have been denied at the initial disability claim level (i.e. the disability application level). In fact, more individuals are approved at administrative law judge hearings than at any of the other disability claim levels. Roughly two thirds of all disability applicants who attend hearings are approved for disability.

What if you are not successful at your hearing? If you are denied at the administrative law judge hearing, you can file another type of appeal: an "Appeals Council Review". So few of these reviews end in an approval, or even in a remand back to the judge (remands occur when disability case are sent back for the judge to address errors) that Social Security allows individuals to file a new initial disability claim while they are waiting on the Appeals Council decision.

The last appeal level is in Federal Court, and very few disability claims are ever taken to this level. Most individuals file a new initial disability claim if their hearing is denied rather than try to take it to Federal court.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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