Anyone who has been involved in filing a Social Security Disability claim will tell you that the process can be very technical, complicated, and frustrating. It is important that you properly complete all forms in the initial application stage and make timely and proper responses to any denial of benefits. Many people who try to work through the process by themselves find it very stressful. This is one of the many reasons to retain an attorney with experience handling Social Security Claims.
There are many steps to the Social Security Claim process, but these steps can be broken as follows:
The initial application stage is where you file your claim for Social Security Disability Benefits. This is how you intiate the Social Security Disability Process. The information you provide to the Social Security Administration (SSA) is assessed and all information supporting your claim is collected. Once you complete this initial application, the SSA will consider your claim and then send you a Notice of Disapproved Claim letter if your claim is denied. If this happens, do not give up if you believe you are disabled. You can appeal, and you do this by filing a “Request for Reconsideration”, within 60 days of receiving this disapproval notice.
Filing for Reconsideration is similar to the first application. You will provide updated information to the Social Security Administration and the SSA will then review your claim for benefits a second time. This second review often ends with a second denial of benefits, and you will receive a “Notice of Reconsideration” letter in the mail letting you know if you won or lost this first appeal.
Again, do NOT give up if you believe you are truly disabled. you can file another appeal within 609 days, which is called the “Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge”. You don’t want to miss the 60 days deadline anywhere along this process, because if you do, you may have to go back and start the process over again if you don’t have good cause for filing your appeal late. Also, you will likely lose out on some of your past due benefits if you miss a 60 day deadline. Depending on the facts of your case, the consequences of missing a deadline could be even worse.
The next phase is the adminstrative hearing stage and is probably the most crucial of all of the stages and the most important stage to have legal representation. During this stage there will be a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge where you have achance to provide further support for your claim. The judge is NOT bound by any of the previous decisions of the SSA. This means the judge will take a fresh look at your case and make a completely new decision. This is a good thing, and it means you will have a chance to be heard, present your case and your arguments, and challenge any testimony or evidence that is not in your favor. If you have hired a lawyer to represent you, then your lawyer is responsible for making sure you have all the evidence supporting your case, and for challenging evidence that may not be in your favor.
Many claims will be denied even at the administrative hearing stage. If you are denied at the hearing, you will have a period of 60 days to appeal the decision of the Administrative Law Judge to the Appeals Council. If you have a lawyer representing you, your lawyer will write a brief supporting your case.
If you are denied at the Appeals Counsel, you still have a right to file in federal court. Most cases that are denied at this stage are never filed in federal court. However, it is always possible that there could be a legal basis to file, but you should not proceed without hiring an attorney with experience dealing with this type of suit. Be aware that the deadlines for filing a Federal Court appeal are SHORTER than 60 days, and there are many technical and procedural requirements to be satisfied at this and all levels of appeal. Talk to a skilled and experienced attorney who knows Social Security Law to be sure you have complied with all necessary rules and requirements, and that you are meeting all deadlines. The information provided is just an overview of the process and is not comprehensive. If you have questions about Social Security Disability, please contact John R. Jokela. John has handled many Social Security Disability hearings, and can help you with your case if you choose. And you first phone call is free. Call 715-845-9000 to talk to Attorney John Jokela directly. John is also happy to come and see you in Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, Port Edwards, and the surrounding area.