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Appealing a denial of an application for SSA disability benefits

Many Ohioans know that receiving a letter from the Social Security Administration can be a stressful moment, especially if one is waiting for a decision on an application for disability benefits. If the envelope contains a letter stating that the application has been denied, the stress level can escalate dramatically and persist for days or weeks. Most people who receive such a letter do not fully understand how to protect their rights. In this post, we want to cover the basics of SSD benefits appeals.

The Social Security Act specifies four levels of appeal:

  • Reconsideration
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge
  • Review by the Appeals Council and
  • Federal court review.

The first step - reconsideration - is an internal review of the documents submitted in support of the initial application by a SSA employee who did not participate in the original decision. The next step - a hearing by an administrative law judge - is much like a trial. The hearing must be held within 75 miles of the applicant's home, and the applicant can appear and provide witnesses to support the case. One advantage of asking for a hearing is the opportunity to submit additional evidence concerning the extent of the disability and the medical cause of the disability. These hearings are frequently conducted by video conference, thereby expediting the process and reducing the applicant's expenses.

An appeal to the Appeals Council is similar to a request for reconsideration - the Council will review the entire file and the record of the proceeding before the administrative law judge. The Council can affirm the judge's order, return the case for further hearing or reverse the order and approve the application for benefits. The final step to appeal an adverse decision is the commencement of a lawsuit in federal district court. We will deal with the court procedures in a subsequent post.

Appealing the denial of SSD benefits can be very complicated, and the assistance of a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the appellate process can provide significant assistance. An experienced attorney can assemble medical and employment records and ensure that the information is presented to the administrative law judge in a clear and persuasive manner.

Source: Social Security Administration, "The Appeals Process," accessed on March 26, 2016

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