As much as 70% of initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied. That means that most claimants will need to file one or – more likely – multiple appeals to win their claim. If your claim is denied you may appeal as many as three times within Social Security’s bureaucracy. After that, you may appeal one or two more times in the federal court system. The farther up the appellate ladder you go, the more complicated the appeal and the greater the need for a Social Security appellate attorney.The first appeal is a called a Request for Reconsideration. It challenges a denial on the initial application and is a new chance to submit supporting medical records that might not have been available when the initial disability application was submitted. This appeal is generally resolved within a matter three to four months from the appeal.
The second appeal is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, commonly called an ALJ. This is the only stage of the process when an applicant gets something that resembles a trial. At the hearing the claimant gives testimony, can call witnesses, submit medical records, and can have an attorney present.
The third appeal is to seek review from the Appeal Council. The appeals council reviews denials by an ALJ. Only a small percentage of cases before the Appeals Council are reversed, generally less than 5% of cases. The appeal to the Appeals Council generally the last chance to submit new evidence of disability. If there are new treatment records that prove a disability, it is important to submit them to the Appeals Council.
After a denial from the Appeals Council, a claimant’s options are not exhausted. Though some choose to file new disability applications other choose to appeal to the federal courts. The first appeal is to the United States District Court in which the claimant resides. The appeal to the District Court does not include a hearing, and as a generally matter the Claimant usually cannot submit new evidence like medical records. A claimant’s last appeal of right is to the federal appellate court in which the District Court is located. For Social Security disability claimants in Alabama this would be an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Only rarely will a Claimant pursue this appeal.
Appeals are more challenging than applications. You should get a lawyer to speak for you on your appeal. In general, the appeal is used to explain why you are disabled by pointing to specific medical records.
It depends on your case. The more medical records you have that support the severity of your illness the stronger your case is for Social Security disability. For most applicants, the best chance of winning comes at the hearing before an administrative law judge.
Most of the time, yes. Most applicants will continue their appeal at least through a hearing. Typically our clients appeal through the Appeals Council and if they’re still denied we advise them whether to continue their appeals, whether they need to file a new application, or whether they need to seek more treatment before applying again.