Roughly between three to six months after you submit your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you will get a letter in the mail from your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. The letter will state whether your application was approved or denied.
If your claim was approved, the letter will inform you of the date you were determined to have become disabled, the date you are entitled to start receiving benefits and the amount of those benefits. This is also called a notice of award.
If your claim was denied – notice of denial – the letter should explain the medical or non-medical reasons for the denial. For instance, if your claim was denied for medical reasons, the letter should describe the impairments that were considered and the reasons why you were found to not be disabled.
Even if your claim is denied, you should not give up. The following are six reasons why you should consider pursuing an appeal of your denied claim:
1. You are disabled.
If you truly have a medical condition that meets the SSA’s definition of a “disability,” then you are experiencing severe challenges in your life. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created to help people just like you.
In Florida, the determination of whether your condition meets the SSA’s definition of “disability” is actually made by the Division of Disability Determinations. The division may have simply made an error in its determination that can be corrected by providing complete, accurate information in your appeal.
2. You need benefits to survive.
There is a reason why you applied for SSD benefits. Due to your medical condition, you may be unable to work and earn income, or you may be earning very little each month. After all, only those who earn $1,070 or less per month, on average, can qualify for SSD benefits. If you truly need benefits, you should not give up your fight to attain them.
3. You still have time to appeal.
The first stage in the appeal of a denied SSD benefits application is to file a request for reconsideration. This is a request for a different team of examiners from the Division of Disability Determinations to review your case.
There should be a date on your notice of denial. You will have 60 days from this date to file your request for reconsideration (plus five days for mailing time). So, if that time has not passed, you still have time to start the appeals process.
If you fail to take timely action, your appeal could be dismissed. You may have to start over from scratch and submit a new application. You don’t want this to happen.
However, if this does occur, you can still submit a request for an extension of time. In this request, you must establish “good cause” for failing to meet the appeal deadline. For example, you may have received inaccurate information from the SSA, or you may have been unable to take timely action for physical, mental, educational or language reasons.
4. You can present additional evidence.
In your request for reconsideration, you can present additional evidence in support of your application for benefits.
For instance, you can present additional medical records that show that you have a physical or mental condition that meets the SSA’s definition of a “disability.” You can also present work records that show that you are no longer able to do the work you did before or adjust to any other line of work.
It is important for the Division of Disability Determinations to have this complete information in order to make a decision on your claim.
5. Your claim may be approved.
Based on the information you present at the reconsideration stage, your claim may ultimately approved, and you can start receiving the benefits you are due.
Even if your claim is not approved at the reconsideration stage, there are still several more levels of appeal that you can pursue, including the opportunity to present your case in a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Many of these appeals are successful. In fact, 44 percent of claims that go to the hearing level in Florida are approved. In the Orlando-based Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), the approval rate is 51 percent. (You can see the approval/denial rates for individual administrative law judges at the SSA website.)
The bottom line: Even if your claim was initially denied, you can take steps that may ultimately lead to approval.
It will benefit you to work with an experienced disability benefits attorney. The attorney can make sure that all paperwork in your case is accurate, complete and filed in a timely manner. The attorney can also serve as a strong advocate for you throughout your appeal.