Can You Appeal a Denial of Social Security Benefits?
Denial of Initial Claim for Benefits
Reconsideration of Your Initial Claim
Request an ALJ Hearing
Applicants who are denied with both their initial applications and their reconsideration efforts shouldn’t lose hope. The next stage in the social security benefits appeal process is requesting a hearing from an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. The term “judge” is a bit deceiving in this instance. ALJ’s are attorneys who work for the Social Security Administration’s office of Hearings Operations. The ALJ’s are tasked with holding hearings on denials of benefit claims, either at the application stage or denial of ongoing benefits, and upholding or overturning the initial decision.
After a denial of benefits, applicants have 60 days to formally request a hearing by an ALJ. During the hearing claimants for benefits can call witnesses, submit new supporting evidence and affidavits and can testify on their own behalf. Applicants may have an attorney represent them at the hearing who may help with properly phrasing answers to questions, questioning witnesses and making the case for approval to the ALJ. While hearings can take place at the SSA physical office space, they are often performed via video conference to accommodate travel limitations.
Nearly 50% of appeals that come before an ALJ are granted benefits. This makes the ALJ hearing many applicants’ best chance of overcoming any initial deficiencies in their application and receiving a positive outcome to their benefits claim.
If your claim is denied after reaching the ALJ hearing, all hope is not lost. Claimants still can file an appeal with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council selection process for cases to review is random. New evidence is generally not allowed to be presented to the council, instead they review for any flaws in the ALJ’s opinion. At this stage only 2-3% of appeals are granted.
Finally, applicants that have been denied at all previous levels can appeal for a Federal Court Review. This involves filing a lawsuit, essentially suing the Social Security Administration. This process can be costly to applicants and has a low chance of success with under 1% of applicants winning their benefits claim at this stage.
The Bottom Line on Appeals
While applicants who have been denied their initial claim shouldn’t lose hope, filing a thorough, well-documented and complete application from the outset gives claimants the best chance at having their disability benefits approved. An experienced Social Security Benefits attorney, such as those with the Law Offices of Justin McMurray, P.A., can help ensure your benefits application is complete and thoroughly documents your injury or disability. If you’re in need of legal representation for an appeal of a denial of benefits, call today for a free consultation of your claim and find out the difference legal representation can make towards getting you and your family the benefits you deserve.
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