What Are the Chances of Winning Disability on an Appeal?
Your chances of winning disability
Roughly 30 percent of initial disability claims (i.e. disability applications) for SSD and SSI are approved, which means that approximately 70 percent of all individuals who apply for Disability are denied.
Three out of ten may not represent the best odds, but this is simply the first step of the disability claim process. Individuals who pursue their claim through the appeal process stand a favorable chance of being approved when they finally get to the hearing level.
Filing your disability appeal if you get denied
If you receive a disability denial, you should appeal it and do it quickly. Not only do you want to avoid missing an appeal deadline (you have 60 days but many people wait too long), you also want to reduce how much time your case takes. This can affect you financially as your case moves through the very slow disability system.
The first appeal: The Request for Reconsideration
The first disability appeal is the request for reconsideration. Your chance of winning an appeal at this level is limited at best. Regardless of the state you live in, it is fairly consistent that only 10 to 15 percent of reconsideration appeals result in an approval.
Why is my reconsideration likely to be denied?
The reason so many reconsiderations get denied is that there is no real difference between how a reconsideration appeal and a disability application are handled. In fact, since the process is identical and the two stages are separated only by a number of weeks, why would the decision be any different?
The only difference between an initial disability decision and a reconsideration appeal decision is that the reconsideration is sent to a different disability examiner. If the initial disability examiner did not make an error according to Social Security rules and guidelines, its unlikely that the reconsideration examiner will reverse the first denial and that a person will win their claim at this level.
The second appeal: The Disability hearing
The disability hearing is by far a more important appeal and you should really consider the request for reconsideration as a just necessary stepping stone to get to the hearing. If you are denied on your reconsideration, and about 90 percent of all people are, then you should immediately file your request for a hearing.
Statistics show that you may have a better than 50 percent chance of winning your benefits at a hearing and the rate of approval is markedly higher when the case is properly prepared and presented to the judge. This usually means having a disability lawyer to help on the case.
Why are you more likely to win disability at a hearing?
Administrative law judges have more flexibility in making their disability determinations than state disability agency examiners, and to some extent this may account for why more individuals are approved for Social Security Disability or SSI at this appeal level than any other level of the Social Security Disability process.
However, higher approvals at disability hearings are the result of several factors:
1. The hearing is the only step at which you can meet and speak with the decision-maker, the judge.
2. You or your disability attorney can present an argument for being approved.
3. Your attorney can present statements at the hearing that were obtained from your doctor or doctors.
4. Your attorney will understand what happened on your first two denials and why you should be appproved.
5. Your attorney can cross-examine any vocational or medical experts that the judge has at the hearing.
The chances of winning your disability benefits will usually depend upon your use of the Social Security appeals process; if you follow the process to an administrative law judge hearing your chances of winning disability benefits are actually good.
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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