Social Security Disability Benefits in Five Steps

Every year, it is a relief for Americans who have been stricken by illness or injury to realize that they may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. For individuals so stricken that they can no longer maintain continuous employment, these benefits can be tremendously helpful and allow them and their families to keep living full, vibrant lives.

Unfortunately, not everyone who applies for these benefits receives them, and even those who eventually do must go through a gauntlet of legal procedures to prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they deserve disability benefits. But just as the SSA has ensured that each of the millions of claims they get every year are properly examined, so also have they put in place a number of appeals options for those you have been denied benefits in order to have their case reconsidered.

The Different Stages of Applying

To begin the application process, an applicant must file an initial application containing personal information and all medical records that support their disability claim. After one to three months, the SSA will send notice of an acceptance or rejection. In the case of a rejection, an applicant has 60 days to file a reconsideration appeal after amending information they think may have hurt their initial filing.

If a reconsideration is also rejected, the applicant can apply for a hearing, where a judge will review the claim, any witnesses or expert testimonies, and render a decision. In the case of an unfavorable hearing verdict, the applicant can file for an appeals council review. This SSA council reviews the hearing documents and ensures the judge came to a proper decision.

Finally, if the appeals council upholds the hearing ruling, the applicant's last option is to move their case to Federal District Court. Here, the applicant's legal representative presents the case and must adhere to whatever decision the court comes to.

Important Social Security Facts

There are some rules and statistics that might be surprising for those applying for disability benefits:

  • Only about 30% of initial applications are accepted, so appeals are common
  • At each stage, the applicant has only 60 days to file for further appeal
  • The appeals council seldom finds the hearing to be wrong
  • Both the hearing and federal court stages actually result in many favorable outcomes

For all these reasons, it's critical that those serious about appealing their disability benefits case seek proper legal counsel. Competent representation can make sure that each stage of the application goes smoothly, no oversights are made, and that the applicant stands the best chance at obtaining the benefits they deserve.

If you or a loved one are thinking of filing for benefits or are interested in mounting an appeals effort, then don't hesitate to contact us at Disability Action Advocates. We have an experienced Sacramento Social Security Disability lawyer standing by to speak with you today.

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