Receiving Social Security disability benefits can be lifechanging for veterans or civilians who are struggling. For some, it can be the difference between paying bills or not. For those that are denied benefits after an arduous application process, it can be jarring. An applicant for Social Security disability benefits can feel confident about meeting the qualifications to receive benefits and still be denied. However, this is not a reason to lose hope. Nearly 65% of all Social Security disability benefits claims are rejected at the initial application stage. That is why it is incredibly important to be as thorough and accurate as possible during the initial application and appeal process.
Applicants normally have 60 days after receiving their rejection notice to ask for an appeal and improve their chance of receiving benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, there are four levels of appeals. The levels are:
- Hearing by an administrative law judge
- Review by the Appeals Council
- Federal Court Review
An applicant’s denial letter will provide information on what level of appeal they should choose as well as instructions on next steps. The denial letter will also provide an explanation for why their application was denied. It is incredibly important to make sure that every reason mentioned in the rejection is addressed during the appeals process.
Improving an Applicant’s Chances
After an application has been denied, there are a few simple ways for an applicant to improve an appeal’s chance of success. The first way is to ensure that the appeal is completed on time. Whether it is a request for consideration or a hearing before an administrative judge, it is of paramount importance that an appeal and all accompanying paperwork are filed on time. If an appeal is not filed on time, the process for applying for Social Security disability benefits starts over.
Another way an applicant can improve their chances is by obtaining and submitting supporting medical evidence that they are disabled. One of the primary reasons that Social Security disability benefits are initially denied is a lack of evidence. An applicant can strengthen their case by presenting additional evidence that they fall under their disability category and that they are following any treatment programs that their doctor is prescribing, if any. If an applicant does not submit new evidence during the appeals process, there is no reason for the Social Security Administration to change their original decision.
However, of all the ways mentioned, the best chance an applicant has to receive Social Security disability benefits is to hire a lawyer. As of 2018, only 12% of people received benefits after their first appeal. An attorney will have the necessary experience and knowledge to guide an applicant on what additional medical evidence to provide the Social Security Administration and what paperwork needs to be completed for each level of the appeals process.
It is important to remember that while there is a time limit for an applicant to undergo the appeals process, there is no statue of limitations for filing for Social Security disability benefits. It is never too late to apply, and it can never hurt to apply again.