Although the majority of applications for Social Security disability benefits are initially denied, you shouldn’t panic if you receive a denial letter in the mail. The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows for several levels of appeals. When you are represented by an experienced attorney, you have an excellent chance of being approved for the benefits you need to provide for yourself and your family.
Levels of the Appeal Process
There are four levels of the appeals process. The following is a brief overview:
- Reconsideration. At this stage, your claim is reviewed by a second person who was not involved in the initial denial. The reconsideration looks at the original evidence, plus any new documentation or support you have submitted. Between 5% and 10% of claims are decided at this stage of the process.
- Hearing by an administrative law judge. If you disagree with the reconsideration, you can request a hearing by an administrative law judge. The hearing should be held within 75 miles of your home. About 50% of claims are approved by administrative law judges.
- Review by the Appeals Council. If your benefits are denied by the administrative law judge, you can request a review from the Appeals Council. However, your request can be denied if the Appeals Council believes the judge’s decision is supported by Social Security law. Less than 3% of claims are approved at this stage.
- Federal court review. The final step in the appeals process is filing a civil suit in federal court. It’s estimated that only about 1% of claims make it to this level of the appeals process.
If your case makes it to the Appeals Council or a federal court review, your attorney may be allowed to charge more than the $6,000 fee cap that the SSA has set in place for claims that are approved earlier in the process.
Legal Representation Is Vital for an Appeal
Although it’s best to have an experienced Social Security disability lawyer prepare your initial application for benefits, you can hire a lawyer for your appeal even if you submitted the initial application yourself. O’Connor Law has extensive experience helping New York residents through all stages of the appeals process. Call our office or fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about how we can help.