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Appealing the SSDI decision

According to the Social Security Administration, approximately 53 percent of Social Security Disability benefits applicants were denied benefits between 2001 and 2010. Some SSDI applicants do not understand their right to appeal a denial and either reapply for benefits without understanding the process or abandon the effort altogether. This could delay benefits to which they are entitled. An understanding of the appeals process increases the applicant’s chances of being approved to receive benefits.

First steps

After receipt of the denial letter, the applicant should file an appeal. The denial letter will include instructions on how to file an appeal, including where to send the appeal. This must be done within 60 days of the denial, but filing the appeal as soon as possible puts the appeal on record and the appeals process can begin.

Once the appeal is filed, it is important to find out why the denial was issued. The denial letter should tell the applicant what was considered and why a denial was issued. Gathering further information from medical providers may increase the applicant’s chances of winning the appeal as updated and more complete information is usually allowed to be presented during the appeals process.

Appeal levels

According to the Arkansas State Disability Determination Service, 39.9 percent of Arkansas residents applying for SSDI are approved. The other 60.1 percent must go through the appeals process. The Social Security Administration provides four levels of appeal for applicants.

  • Reconsideration – A party who was not involved in the initial decision will review the matter, including new information received.
  • Hearing – An administrative law judge will conduct a hearing that will include testimony from the applicant, witnesses and experts.
  • Appeals Council – A review of the evidence from the hearing is conducted, and the Council determines if the ALJ’s decision was correct or if they need to make a decision on the case. Sometimes the Council will return the case to an ALJ for further review.
  • Federal Court – If the applicant does not agree with the Appeals Council’s decision, a lawsuit may be filed with federal court.

In Arkansas, only another 10.4 percent are approved after a reconsideration of their case. However, the Arkansas ODAR Hearing Office reported that 51.5 percent of the appeals that went to the hearing stage in Little Rock were fully favorable.

Delays in filing

The appeals process can take months or even years, which is a long time to be without income. A timely appeal means that the applicant’s case can be heard sooner rather than later, which could mean a reversal of the decision where the applicant can start receiving benefits. If approved, the Social Security Administration may also grant retroactive payments or “back pay,” but there is a limit on how far back they will go. Filing the appeal as soon as possible increases the chances of receiving back pay to the date of application.

The entire application and appeals process for receiving Social Security Disability benefits can be confusing. Many people do not understand that they may be able to receive benefits even after being denied. Consulting with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney increases the chances of winning a Social Security Disability appeal.