Turned down at my disability hearing: should I appeal or refile?

I was turned down after my hearing. I had a lawyer for the entire case whom I do not think is giving me the guidance I need. It seems as if the judge cherry picked. I did not have witness at my hearing, and now denied. I filed for appeal and had moved from the state that my hearing was in.

My doctor's notes seem kind of inadequate. Due to my ignorance, I assumed the doctor I saw on an average of one time a week would already know each and every symptom I had. I asked my dr. to write a summary of my treatment.

Do I have a chance at winnning an appeal or am I better off refiling? I really hate to lose the back money after 3 years of trying; it would save my life. I suffer from chronic lyme's disease, fibromyalgia and mental health issues. I am poor and was not afforded the correct testing I need, or the good medical care that I need.

What do I do? I really need this overturned. I am now homeless, have no money and know no way to get medical care. Desperate. Thanks.

It is very often the case that a doctor's notes will seem inadequate. This is because physicians do not generally record a person's functional limitations in their treatment notes. But this is just what the Social Security Administration is looking for (evidence of how your condition functionally limits you and restricts your ability to engage in substantial and gainful work activity).

Because of this common shortcoming of a claimant's medical evidence, a disability representative (a disability lawyer or non-attorney disability representative) will typically try to get a medical source statement completed by a treating physician, i.e. a doctor who has an established history of providing medical treatment to you for your condition, or conditions.

If your disability representative has filed an appeal of the hearing decision, you, unfortunately, have no real choice but to wait on that decision. That appeal is a a request for review of the Administrative law judge's decision by something known as the AC, or appeals council. The appeals council may choose to review your decision and if they do, it is possible that they may overturn the judge's decision (though this hardly ever happens) or remand your case back to the hearing office for a subsequent hearing.

If that occurs, it is likely that they will send the case back, i.e. remand it, to the same judge who denied you in the first place (in anyone's mind, this does not sound like a fair process I know).

If it is, however, denied--meaning that the appeals council will not even review the decision that the judge made on your case (and this is nearly always what happens when an appeal is sent to the AC), then you can file a new claim.

I would suggest that you waste no time in refiling should this be the case. Having been through the process once already, you are probably more aware than most individuals how very long it can take to get through the disability application phase, through the reconsideration phase, and then through the disability hearing phase. For most claimants, it is a long road to being approved for disability with Social Security.

I hope your appeal overturns the ALJ decision or at least remands it back for another look.

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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