If you can’t work because of a medical or mental health condition, then you may be able to get monthly payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA offers two primary disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Depending on your work history, assets, and income, you may qualify for one or both programs.
Many initial applications for disability benefits are denied by the SSA. This may be due to insufficient medical records, improperly completed paperwork or any number of other reasons. Fortunately, you can appeal a denial of your Social Security disability claim with the help of an experienced Philadelphia disability appeals attorney.
Based in Cherry Hill, the legal team at Bross & Frankel helps clients through all phases of the appeals process. We have extensive experience representing clients in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and work hard to help our clients get the benefits that they deserve. Reach out to our law firm today to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey disability lawyer.
Can I Appeal a Social Security Disability Denial?
The Social Security Administration denies a relatively high percentage of applications for SSDI and/or SSI. There are many possible reasons for these denials, including:
- Insufficient medical evidence to support your diagnosis
- Paperwork errors
- A prior denial, with an identical application re-submitted
- Failure to cooperate with the SSA, such as by submitting requested medical or financial information
- You make too much money (SSDI and SSI) or have too many assets (SSI0
- Failure to follow treatment advice
Remember: to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must prove that you are unable to work due to a disability and must meet other requirements. This means proving that you have a mental health and/or medical condition that impacts your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). This condition must be expected to last 12 months or longer or to be terminal. In addition, you must either prove that you have earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI or that you have limited income or assets to be eligible for SSI.
If your application is incomplete or lacks sufficient supporting documentation to meet or exceed these requirements, then it will likely be denied. Fortunately, it is possible to appeal a denial of Social Security disability benefits.
There are four levels of appeal with the SSA:
- Hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ)
- Review by the SSA Appeals Council
- Federal Court review (lawsuit)
If you receive an initial denial letter, then the next step is to file a request for reconsideration of your claim. In essence, this means that you are asking the Social Security Administration to look at your application again. You can also provide any new information that you may have to support your claim.
If the SSA denies the request for reconsideration, then the next step is to request a hearing before an ALJ. At this hearing, you will have an opportunity to make arguments, introduce testimony, and present evidence. If the ALJ again denies your appeal, then you will move on to the next step: a request for review by the SSA Appeals Council.
At this stage, lawyers will submit briefs to the Appeals Council, making arguments about any legal errors that the ALJ may have made. The Appeals Council typically declines review. If they accept the case and determine that the ALJ made a mistake, then they will send the case back to the administrative law judge for another hearing.
The final step in the appeals process is to file a lawsuit in federal court against the Social Security Administration. The standard in federal court is that the SSA”s decision was not “supported by substantial evidence.” This is a very hard standard to meet.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Social Security Disability Appeal?
You are not required to hire an attorney to represent you when you file your initial application for Social Security benefits. While it is often a good idea to work with a disability lawyer at this stage to ensure that your claim is strong, many people file an application on their own. However, once that claim has been denied, it is generally a good idea to hire a Social Security disability appeals lawyer – particularly once you get past the reconsideration stage.
Social Security disability appeals are incredibly technical. They are based on the complex rules that govern the SSA, as well as specific procedural rules for each step of the process. If you are unfamiliar with the specific requirements for the Social Security benefits that you are applying for – or the rules for each step of the appeals process – then you should absolutely have legal representation.
A Philadelphia disability appeals lawyer will thoroughly evaluate every aspect of your claim, along with the SSA’s stated reasons for the denial. They will then work on building the evidence that you need to have your benefits claim approved. This may involve referring you to specialist physicians, working with your doctors to improve documentation of your disability and how it affects your ability to work, and soliciting testimony from family members, friends, and coworkers about how your disability affects you.
Your attorney will cross-examine witnesses at the administrative hearing, including the vocational expert that usually testifies at these hearings. This type of cross-examination is often critical to demonstrating to the ALJ that you cannot perform your job or another job in the national economy. Your lawyer will focus their questioning to demonstrate that you cannot, in fact, do particular jobs because of your disability and other factors, such as your education and experience.
Throughout the process, your attorney will handle all communications with the SSA and make sure that each appeal is filed in a timely manner. They will also work with you to prepare you for what comes next, and the likely outcome of each appeal.
Talk to a Philadelphia Disability Appeal Attorney about Your Claim
If your Social Security disability claim has been denied, it can be incredibly frustrating. You do have a right to file an appeal with the SSA. Our law firm can help you with the process.
Bross & Frankel represents people with disabilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey through all phases of applying for Social Security disability, including appealing a denial of your claim. Our goal is to help you get the benefits that you are entitled to under the law. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a Philadelphia disability appeals lawyer, fill out our online contact form or call our law office at (866) 708-3503.
How Long Do I Have to File a Social Security Disability Appeal?
There are strict time limits for filing an appeal. At each stage, you have 60 days from the date on the denial letter to file an appeal. The SSA adds an additional 5 days for mailing, so you have 65 days from the date of the letter to file a request for reconsideration, ask for an ALJ hearing, request a Disability Council review, or file a federal court lawsuit.
At Bross & Frankel, we know that it can be hard to meet these deadlines when you’re already struggling with various health issues. Our law office can take on the appeals process for you. Give us a call to schedule a free initial consultation with a Philadelphia disability appeals lawyer.
How Can I Afford to Hire a Lawyer for a Social Security Disability Appeal?
When you are filing for SSDI and/or SSI, you are likely in a situation where you have little to no money coming in or are looking for a future where you won’t be able to work. This can make it hard to even consider the possibility of paying for a lawyer. Fortunately, disability attorneys handle these cases on a contingency fee basis.
This means that you won’t pay anything upfront, and will only pay a percentage of any back benefits that you are awarded by the SSA. This percentage is capped by the SSA and will be taken out of any award that you receive. Call Bross & Frankel today to talk to a Philadelphia disability appeals attorney about your claim.
Should I Agree to a Video ALJ Hearing?
There is often a long wait time for a hearing before an ALJ for Social Security disability appeals. The SSA offers an alternative for those who want a hearing date as soon as possible: a video hearing at a “national hearing center.” While this can be tempting, agreeing to a video hearing isn’t always the best option.
When you aren’t in the same room as the ALJ, it can be hard for them to get a true sense of just how disabled you are – or to judge your demeanor or credibility. While it can be frustrating to wait for a year or longer for an in-person hearing, it often leads to better outcomes. Contact Bross & Frankel to schedule a free consultation with a Philadelphia disability appeals attorney.