Are you one of the many people who have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and received a rejection? You are not alone; two-thirds of applicants are initially rejected. Government agencies are being more careful in their review, as applications have surged 25% since 2007, and the Social Security Fund is getting close to insolvency. A Social Security spokesman has also acknowledged that as applications have risen, approval rates have fallen. Rejected applicants have a few venues for appeal.
Rejected SSDI Applicants have Four Appeal Opportunities
There are four stages of appeal for any applicant whose application has been rejected. The four stages of appeal are:
- Requesting Reconsideration of the Initial Decision—Over 90% requests for reconsideration are not accepted.
- Request for an Administrative Hearing—An administrative hearing is presided over by an administrative law judge. In 2004, over half of the cases that reached this stage favored the appealing party.
- Request for an SSA Appeals Council Review—The Appeals Council must receive a review request within sixty-five days of the date of the decision by the administrative law judge. The request for review should be sent to the council’s office in Virginia. The SSA Appeals Council has a record of not overturning administrative judges’ decisions most of the time.
- File an Appeal with the U.S. Federal District Court—So far, this is a rarely taken stage of appeal. However, the results have been positive in almost half of the cases that have come this far.
Scheduling of the Hearing Varies
Since more than 90% of rejections do not pass the first level of appeal, it is likely that you will request an administrative hearing. The time it takes to schedule a hearing varies and depends on the caseload. A report released in 2010 by the Social Security Administration revealed that it could take between 256 days and 634 days. Your caseworker may have some idea of the processing time, since the caseworker may have some knowledge of the caseload.
Processing times may be quicker in some offices as the Social Security Administration has recently opened additional hearing centers. Even though you cannot speed up the process at the other end, you can do things to make sure there is no processing delay at your end. You should respond promptly to any requests and notifications from Social Security.
For Better Preparation, Get Your File in Advance
At this stage, you will benefit by getting a copy of your file from the hearing office. The file will reveal your case record before the judge. The hearing office will send a copy without a request, but it usually sends it closer to the scheduling date of the hearing. A file request can speed up the process. Keep in mind, the hearing office needs time to put the materials together.
After the hearing before the administrative law judge, there will be another wait. If you are unable to get a positive result in your hearing, the opportunity to take your case to the Appeals Council may not be available for long. The Social Security Administration has begun phasing out this opportunity. This means that after the second stage of review, the final opportunity to appeal a rejection will be before a federal court judge.
Therefore, if you need assistance with the appeal process, contact experienced social security disability attorney John Snyder today to schedule a free consultation.