Do I Have to Exhaust All Levels of Appeal When My Long-Term Disability Claim Is Denied?

Many people give up on their application for disability benefits if it gets denied because they do not think that undergoing the appeals process will be successful. In reality, many of the people who eventually get disability benefits had to go through at least one appeal before the Social Security Administration (SSA) finally awarded their benefits and retroactive benefits.

If your long-term disability claim has been denied, you should exhaust as many levels of appeal as it takes because your appeal can matter, and you can also get an award of the past-due benefits you missed out on because of the denial. A Texas disability attorney can advocate for you and help you navigate the Social Security disability benefits appeals process.

The Disability Benefits Appeals Process

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the same process when people want to appeal the denial of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. There are four possible levels of appeal:

  • Reconsideration. In a reconsideration, your claim will get reviewed by someone who was not involved with the original denial. The reviewer will look at all of your documentation and any additional evidence you submit with your request for reconsideration.
  • Getting a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). If you disagree with the decision at the reconsideration stage, you can ask the SSA to assign your case to an administrative law judge (ALJ) to review your application and evidence. The ALJ will be someone who was not involved in any earlier stage of the process. Most of these hearings happen within 75 miles of the applicant’s home or by videoconference.
  • Asking for a review from the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council has the discretion to review your case, but it can decline your request for review. Even if you expect a denial at this stage, you need to go through the process so that you have the right to take your case to federal if you so choose.
  • Filing an appeal in a federal court. Many people finally win their claim for disability benefits at the federal court level. You cannot go straight to federal court from the original denial. You must exhaust all of the lower levels of appeal, even if you expect them all to “rubber stamp” the denials, or you will not get your day in court.

Each of the levels of appeal has strict rules about the number of days you have to file an appeal, the items you must submit as a part of your appeal of the adverse lower decision, the number of copies you must file, and other procedural requirements. If you miss any deadlines or do not comply with all of the rules, the SSA or federal court could dismiss your appeal.

Why Working with a Lawyer Can Be Well Worth It

Most people do not have a working knowledge of all the procedural rules they have to follow when pursuing an appeal of the denial of disability benefits. With so much at stake, it is well worth it to work with a lawyer on your appeal.

In fact, since many denials happen because the applicant did not fill out a form correctly or submit all of the required documentation that supports the disability benefits claim, you could save yourself a great deal of delay and disappointment if you work with a Texas disability attorney from the beginning, on your original application for benefits. Contact our office today.