So, you went through the long process of applying for Social Security disability benefits, and it didn’t work out? You’re not the only one who’s gone through this. In fact, more than 2/3 of all Social Security disability applications get rejected on the first try. That’s more than one million claims that are being denied every year!
But, being rejected doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. If your disability claim was denied, there are 5 things that you can do to try and get the Social Security disability benefits you deserve:
- Find out why your application was rejected: It could be that there just wasn’t enough information to approve your claim. Whatever the reason for your denial, find out what it was so that you can correct any mistakes you may have made in the initial application process. Just because your Social Security disability application was denied doesn’t mean that you are not legitimately disabled, or that your claim will never succeed.
- File for Reconsideration – quickly: Reconsideration is the first formal appeal that you can make in the Social Security disability process in most states. However, you only have 65 days from the date on your denial letter to file for it. If you miss the deadline to appeal, your claim may be thrown out altogether and you will have to start over with a new claim. If the claimant can show “good cause” for the late appeal, the deadline can be extended. Either way, it is not good for your case to miss deadlines.
During the Reconsideration process, a new examiner who had nothing to do with your first application will take over the case. You are allowed to submit new evidence, so make sure that you have all of your documents in order. If any new information has come to light since you first filed your application, make sure to give it to the new examiner. The new examiner will look at all of the new and old evidence, and make a decision. In most cases, he will not have to speak to you at all. However, if your Social Security disability application was denied because the original examiner felt that your condition had improved, the new examiner will ask to speak with you. If the examiner determines the person is now able to work, he/she is sent a termination notice and can request reconsideration and a face to face with an examiner. When you talk to the examiner, carefully explain why you are still disabled and cannot work. Remember, to be considered disabled, your medical problems must prevent you from working. You will have to explain exactly how your condition is keeping you from living a normal life.
- If your claim is denied again at Reconsideration, appeal again: For the next appeal, your case will leave the hands of examiners and head to an Administrative Law Judge instead. Like your first appeal, the deadline is 65 days from the date on the denial letter. This time, you will get a hearing where you can present your evidence and any witnesses who support your claim. For example, you may want to bring your doctor and your old boss to your hearing and have both of them explain how your disability prevents you from working. As a practical matter, it’s unlikely that any doctor would make the time to come. Evidence from treating doctors is almost always submitted in writing, sometimes, perhaps, by video, or maybe even phone.
- If your claim is denied at the hearing, file another appeal: This time, your claim will go in front of the Social Security Appeals Council. Like the U.S. Supreme Court, the Social Security Appeals Council does not accept in every single case for review. Instead, the Council looks at the facts of each case and decides which claims deserve to be reviewed. You cannot force the Council to review your case, nor can you guarantee that it will rule in your favor.
- If all else fails, file a lawsuit: If your Social Security disability application has been denied at every other level, your last chance will be to file a lawsuit in Federal Court. However, going through a lawsuit can take years, and it can be expensive. And, there is no guarantee that you will win.