All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.
I was denied Social Security Disability Income benefits. Am I out of options?
The short answer is no. Those rejected applicants have the opportunity to appeal the decision made by the agency denying their claim.
The appellate process begins with receiving the letter denying benefits. The letter may state the agency’s rationale for denying benefits. It will also inform you what your rights are and how to exercise them. Each applicant must follow the same process. The applicant must exhaust their administrative rights before seeking relief through in the courts. Courts will not permit applicants to skip the necessary steps before hearing your case. In fact, if you do, the court must dismiss the appeal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
This process can take a very long time and be very frustrating. The SSA encourages applicants to engage counsel of their choosing to assist with the appeal. After receiving the letter, you can initiate the appeals procedure by filing an appeal online. The appellate application is reviewed and sent to the decision-maker for reconsideration. At the review stage, you might have the opportunity to state your case and convince the agent reviewing your petition to change the initial ruling. The agent may even allow you to supplement your application with additional proof to substantiate your claim.
The next step in the appellate procedure is to submit your application for review by an administrative law judge (“”ALJ””). The ALJ is a judicial officer specially trained in the laws and regulations interpreting the Social Security Act. The administrative law judge commonly referred to as the “”ALJ”” will take testimony from you and your witnesses. He/she is an impartial judicial officer and played no role in deciding to deny your application. The judge will hear the facts of the case with an attorney present. If you are appealing your application, you and your attorney can present witnesses that can explain why the decision was wrong and exhibits to supplement the live testimony. Exhibits can be anything that is relevant to proving why you qualify for SSDI benefits.
If the ALJ denies your claim, then you can seek leave to appeal to the U.S. District Court for your jurisdiction. This process involves your SSDI attorney filing a complaint in court and asking a federal judge to overrule the ALJ and award you benefits.
The appeal proceedings are a long and hard road. Appeals are time sensitive and should be handled immediately.