On average, over 60% of Social Security Disability (SSD) claims are denied. Claims can be rejected due to improper filing, missing or incorrect information on your application, or lack of knowledge about the claim process, which a disability attorney can help with.
If you’ve applied for SSD and your claim was denied, you have options. You can question the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) decision and appeal your claim. If you’re in the Lake Charles, Louisiana area, we want to help.
Let the Social Security disability attorneys at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson help. Schedule your free consultation today by calling our Lake Charles office at 337-436-6611, or filling out an online form.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Appealing Your Claim
When the SSA makes a decision on your claim, you’ll be sent a letter explaining that decision. After you receive your decision letter, you can start the appeal process. You must file your request for appeal at each level within 60 days from the date of the notice of the denial.
File a Request for Reconsideration
The first of four levels of appeals is reconsideration by the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. Filing a Request for Reconsideration is the first step you must take. You’ll submit medical records, personal information, and other required documents along with this form. You’ll also have a chance to present additional evidence to make your case.
Like your initial application, your Request for Reconsideration will be evaluated by the SSA, though it will be reviewed by someone who wasn’t involved in the initial decision. If the SSA employee decides you meet the requirements, they’ll pass your claim along to your state’s DDS office for the final decision.
Request a Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
If your claim is again denied, you can request a hearing within 60 days before an administrative law judge (ALJ) who was not involved in the previous decisions for your claim. Hearings are conducted by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).
Depending on where you live, it can take some time for your hearing to be held. In Shreveport, for example, the average wait time is seven months, while in New Orleans, the average is nine months.
You can ask that your case be decided without a hearing, but you’ll likely be asked to attend a hearing in person at a hearing office or via video chat. At your hearing, the ALJ will review your evidence, your argument, and any witness testimony to make their decision.
Review by the Appeals Council
If the ALJ made a decision that was not in your favor at your hearing, the next step is to request a review by the Appeals Council within 60 days. The Appeals Council is composed of administrative appeals judges who will review the decision made by the ALJ.
Again, you’ll need previous decision letters, supporting documents as evidence, and personal information to complete this level of appeal. You can submit some documents online or by mail; the SSA does require original or certified copies of some documents, which you can send through your local Social Security office.
The Appeals Council will examine your initial evidence, any additional evidence, and the ALJ’s notes and conclusion. They will grant, deny, or dismiss your request for your review. They can agree to review your case and make their own decision, return your case to the ALJ for a new hearing and decision, or agree with the ALJ and deny your request.
Review by Federal Court
The fourth and final step in the appeals process is a review by a federal court. If you are unsatisfied with the decision made by the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court within 60 days of receiving their decision.
An attorney is not required for your federal court review, but if you decide to file a lawsuit on your own, you should be prepared for a time consuming, expensive, and stressful legal battle. It can even take years to present your case before a federal judge for a decision.
If a federal court does not make a decision in your favor, you can continue up to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
How an Attorney Can Help Appeal Your SSD Claim
As you can see, the appeals process is lengthy and complicated. If you choose to work with a disability attorney to appeal your claim, they can:
- Ensure you file your appeal within 60 days at every level
- Ensure you file a complete appeal with correct and sufficient evidence, records, testimonies, etc.
- Use their experience and legal knowledge to make the best case on your behalf
- Explain the decisions made at every appeals level to you, and your options going forward
- Fight for a decision in your favor if you must file a lawsuit in federal court
If you need help appealing your denied SSD claim in Louisiana, or you’d like professional guidance while applying for SSD benefits for the first time, contact the firm of Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson online today. You may also reach our Lake Charles office by calling 337-436-6611and scheduling your consultation. For more legal resources and firm news, like and follow our Facebook page.