Steps to Take When Your Disability Reconsideration Has Been Denied
If your Social Security disability (SSDI) application was denied and you requested reconsideration, chances are good you were denied again. Only about 10% of applications are approved at the reconsideration stage, so you shouldn’t be discouraged by a denial. Instead, you’ll want to prepare yourself for the next step–the one where you statistically have the greatest chance of approval.
What is A Disability Reconsideration?
A request for reconsideration of your social security disability claim is the first step in the SSDI appeals process. The reconsideration process is virtually identical to the initial determination, except that a different person will be reviewing the application and supporting documentation and making a fresh decision. This is typically the quickest step in the application and appeals process
You can request reconsideration immediately after receiving your initial denial. However, you may want to consult a disability benefits advocate before you submit your request. In some cases, it is beneficial to send supplemental information such as updated medical records when you request reconsideration. You’ll want to take full advantage of every opportunity to increase your chances of approval on reconsideration because the next step in the process is very long and involved compared with the initial application and reconsideration.
You’ll only have 60 days to make the request, so be sure to gather the information you need right away. If you miss that deadline, you’ll have to start the application process over and you may lose some benefits.
After Reconsideration is Denied
If your request for reconsideration results in another denial, you’ll once again have 60 days to take the next step. This time, the next step is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). You can request a hearing on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website.
If you haven’t already done so, this is the time to connect with an experienced disability benefits advocate.
The SSDI ALJ Hearing
One reason for the relatively high success rate at the ALJ hearing is that the applicant has a greater opportunity to present evidence. This includes written evidence that must be submitted in advance of the hearing and the opportunity to call witnesses. You or your disability advocate will also be able to question any witnesses the ALJ calls, such as medical or vocational experts.
Of course, it can be tough for someone who is inexperienced with the process and the type of information that will be most useful in your case to make the most of this opportunity. A seasoned disability advocate can help ensure that you have submitted the most persuasive written evidence available in advance of the hearing and choose the witness or witnesses who are likely to have the most positive impact. Your advocate can also prepare you for the hearing, and handle the questioning of witnesses on your behalf.
What Happens After You Request an ALJ Hearing?
The amount of time between your hearing request and your hearing date depends largely on where you live. In some areas of the country, you may get a hearing date within seven to eight months of your request. In other areas, it may take as long as two years to get to a hearing.
The SSA will send you a notice of your hearing date and time. You will also receive information, possibly in separate communications, about the different ways you can appear at your hearing. These may include in-person, online video, telephone, or teleconferencing at an SSA office.
When you receive your hearing date, that starts the clock ticking on some other issues. For example, if you need to change your hearing date you must make that request within 30 days of receiving your notice or at least five days before the scheduled hearing–whichever is sooner. You must also submit any written evidence you have at least five days prior to the hearing.
At the hearing, you’ll answer questions and you and your advocate will present evidence and question any witnesses. But, you shouldn’t expect a decision that day. Instead, you’ll receive a written notice of the decision. Usually, the decision arrives a few months after the hearing.
After the ALJ Decision
If you are awarded benefits after the ALJ hearing, you will receive a notice that your benefits have been approved. Because of the amount of time that passes between the initial application and the ALJ’s decision, most people who are awarded SSDI benefits at this point will receive back pay, retroactive benefits, or both.
It’s easy to get these two confused. Retroactive benefits only apply if there was a gap between the time you became disabled and the time you applied for Social Security disability benefits. Recipients who were qualified and eligible for benefits prior to applying may receive up to 12 months in retroactive benefits, covering all or part of the time they would have been entitled to benefits if they’d applied sooner. Back pay is a lump sum payment of benefits from the date of your application or the sixth month after you became disabled–whichever is later–until the time you actually start receiving benefits. The bottom line is that most people who are ultimately approved after the ALJ hearing receive a lump sum payment in addition to monthly benefits moving forward.
The ALJ hearing isn’t the end of the road, but the process changes a bit. After you receive your denial, you’ll again have 60 days to request a review–this time, from the Appeals Council. But, the Appeals Council isn’t required to review your case. If you’re denied by the Appeals Council or they choose not to take up your case, the final option is to go to federal court.
Make the Most of Your SSDI Appeal Options
While a very small percentage of SSDI applications are approved on reconsideration, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to put forth the best possible case at that stage. If your claim is approved at the reconsideration stage, you could begin receiving benefits two years or more earlier than if you have to continue to fight your way through the process.
Whether you are preparing to request reconsideration or have already received a denial on reconsideration and are ready to move forward to the ALJ hearing, a knowledgeable disability benefits advocate can be your best resource. To learn more about how Disability Help Group can help, call 800-800-3332 or contact us here.