What if my SSI or Social Security Disability Application is denied?

Before answering this question directly, let's first analyze your options if you are denied on your disability appeals, they would have had a strong likelihood of receiving benefits.

The second option would not involve giving up on a claim but simply taking the wrong step. For hundreds of thousands of applicants, that wrong step is starting over with a brand new claim for disability after a notice of denial (known as a notice of disapproved claim) has been received. A new claim that is filed immediately after a prior claim has been turned down...is likely to be denied again.

Why? Because nothing really changes in the process. A new claim will be decided by an initial claims examiner at DDS who will very likely look at the exact same medical evidence and reach the same conclusion as the first disability examiner.

As a former disability examiner, I saw many instances in which claimants had filed up to 15 separate disability applications. The mere fact that they were on their 15th application for disability proved the point that they were making the wrong decision as to how to proceed with their claim and were basically wasting months, perhaps years, of time that could have been better spent in other ways.

Starting over with a new claim is also damaging in another respect: with a new filing date in place, a person who is later approved on a subsequent application may potentially lose a substantial amount in disability back pay.

The third option - filing an appeal immediately after being denied

If you are denied for disability benefits on your Social Security Disability application or SSI application and are continuing to have significant impairments from your medical conditions that A) cause you to have significant functional limitations and B) prevent you from working if you are an adult or prevent you from engaging in age-appropriate activities if you are a child, you should call your local Social Security office to request an appeal of your disability medical decision.

You should do this immediately because there is a deadline in which to file an appeal. The deadline is 60 days which would seem to be plenty of time; however, for the sake of saving processing time, you should always endeavor to file an appeal promptly.

If you are represented on your claim

Of course, if you have a disability lawyer or representative, have this individual complete your appeal for you. If you have representation, you should immediately contact your disability lawyer as soon as you receive written notice of your denial. Your Social Security lawyer (or non-attorney representative if this is the case) should receive a copy of any notification that you receive; however, this is not always the case. Contacting your disability representative, lawyer or other wise, will ensure that your appeal gets filed and gets filed promptly.

Once your representative becomes aware of the fact that you have been denied, they may contact you prior to submitting your appeal paperwork to see if anything has changed with your situation, or to see if there is new information to add to the case. For instance, if you have been to a doctor recently, if you have seen a new doctor that the social security administration is not aware of, if you have received a new diagnosis, if you have had new testing, or if your condition has worsened in some way.

If you have a disability attorney and that attorney files your appeal for you, they should send you a copy of the appeal paperwork for your records, as well as keep a copy for their own file, which will likely be used to prepare for a hearing before an administrative law judge at some point. Copies of submitted paperwork can be extremely important because in the event that SSA (social security administration) claims not to have received your paperwork, you can verify that it was sent in and on what date.

Keep in mind that the disability process may be lengthy, as there are three levels in the Social Security Disability appeal process for claims that have been turned down. Also keep in mind that you will be given sixty days in which to file an appeal or have an appeal filed for you by an attorney.

Your first level of appeal will be a reconsideration of your disability application, the second level of appeal will be a hearing before an administrative law judge, and the third level is an appeal to the Appeals Council (to review the decision of a judge if you have been denied at a hearing). If you are appealing to the Appeals Council, you should also file a new initial claim, as there are few reversals of administrative law judge decisions at the hearing level.

If you are denied for Social Security Disability, you should chiefly remember to get an appeal started as soon as possible and you may wish to consider representation from an attorney to improve your chances of winning your case.

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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