What to do if you receive notification of a Social Security Disability or SSI claim denial

If you receive notification of a social security denial, you should do the following.

1. Contact the local social security office where you initially filed your claim to request an appeal. This will prompt that office to send you the necessary forms, which will allow you to get them completed and submitted as soon as possible. How quickly should you get your disability appeal sent in? There is only one valid answer to that question: Immediately.

As a disability examiner, I found that a large percentage of claimants fail to get their appeals sent in timely and many do not even attempt to submit an appeal, but, instead, make the mistake of filing a new disability claim. However, new claims are generally not the wisest course of action since new claims are usually denied for the same reason as the prior claim. To maximize a claimant's chances of winning, they should file an appeal.

2. If you representation, meaning a disability representative who can be either a disability lawyer or a non-attorney representative, contact that individual. The purpose of a representative is to represent your claim. That usually boils down to preparing your case for a hearing held by an adminstrative law judge.

But even before a disability hearing takes place, a representative has the task of obtaining updates on your case, responding to requests for information from the social security administration and, of course, filing your appeals.

If you are represented by a disability attorney, you can still choose to file your own appeals. However, it usually makes little sense to do this. Also, by having your representative file your appeal paperwork, you can be sure that A) a copy of the appeal will be kept on file by your representative and B) a followup on the status of the appeal will be conduted at some point.

3. Make sure that your appeal is submitted before the deadline. SSA gives claimants a very generous appeal period in which to submit to an appeal. This timeframe is 60 days plus an additional five days for mail time, for a total of 65 days from the date of the denial notice (note: the appeal has to actually be received by social security by the 65th day, not simply mailed and postmarked on the 65th day).

Despite the generous timeframe, however, many claimants miss their appeal deadline. This is more unlikely when a claimant is represented but since notices are sometimes not received by either a claimant or a representative, it is always a good idea to contact one's representative after a denial notice has been received. This ensures that both parties will "be on the same page" and that the appropriate course of action (submitting an appeal) can be taken.

4. Follow up on the appeal. It is not enough to simply send in an appeal. Ideally, you should always contact the social security office to verify that the appeal was actually received. There have been cases in which a claimant sent in an appeal and did not follow up the receipt of the appeal, having just assumed that it was received and processed...and then found out, months later, that it had never been received. In such cases, the claimant typically has to start again with a new claim, meaning that many months of valuable time have been wasted.

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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