According to data published by the Social Security Administration (SSA), approximately 65 percent of applications for disability benefits are denied every year. Fortunately, those who have been denied benefits have the right to appeal the decision in court. There are, however, a variety of requirements with which claimants must comply. For example, all initial appeals must be made in writing within 60 days of the date of denial. Those who fail to abide by these rules will have their request for appeal denied. To help avoid this type of mistake, you should consider retaining a Social Security disability lawyer who is familiar with and can help you navigate the appeals process.
The first level of appeal for those whose disability claims have been denied is known as reconsideration. During a reconsideration, a Social Security representative will evaluate the evidence that was submitted when the original decision was made. However, claimants are permitted to submit additional evidence to bolster their claim. In most cases, a representative will be able to conduct a complete review of all relevant files without requiring the presence of the claimant.
Those who disagree with a reconsideration decision have further options, as they can request a hearing, which will be conducted by an administrative law judge. Prior to the hearing, the judge may ask the claimant to clarify certain information or will ask for additional evidence. At the hearing, the judge can question the claimant in person, as well as any witnesses who can support the claim, including medical and vocational experts. In some cases, judges are willing to hold hearings via video conference, so claimants are not required to travel a great distance. Video conferences are also usually scheduled faster than in-person hearings. Once the judge has heard all of the evidence, he or she will send a letter containing the decision.
In the event that a claimant’s appeal is denied, he or she can ask for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. However, the Appeals Council does not accept all requests, and if it believes that the hearing decision was correct, it will deny the claimant’s request. If the Council does decide to review the case, it will either make the decision itself based on the evidence presented in the earlier proceedings or send it back to an administrative law judge.
Claimants who disagree with the Council’s decision, or whose request for review was denied, have the option of filing a suit in federal district court. Both parties will present briefs where they will attempt to persuade the judge that, in light of the medical evidence, the lower court failed to make its decision in accordance with the law. However, no new evidence can be introduced at this time. Instead, the parties will be limited to the evidence that they presented in the earlier proceedings. After reviewing the evidence, the judge will issue a decision either remanding the case to the lower court, overturning the prior decision, or denying benefits.
Although some claimants are successful in federal court, it generally becomes more and more difficult to convince a judge that the earlier reviews were incorrectly decided at this level.
If you filed a claim for disability benefits that was denied, please contact us at The Comerford Law Office, LLC by calling 312-863-8572 to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.
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