If you decide to submit an appeal for a disability application, you don’t need to hire a social security disability appeal lawyer.

However, representing yourself during a disability hearing might be intimidating. An experienced disability advocate helps improve your chances of winning your claim. Advocates have specialized knowledge of Social Security’s rules and regulations for benefits. If you need to appeal your disability application, our advocates know how to help.

How Do You Appeal a Denied Benefits Claim?

If the SSA denies your application for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must submit a request for reconsideration. You might also need to attend a disability hearing with an administrative law judge.

Submit a Reconsideration Appeal

If the SSA denies your initial application for benefits, you need to submit an appeal 60 days after your denial. You can do this online or through the mail. During your appeal, the Social Security office lets a different examiner review your application. If this examiner determines that the first reviewer made a mistake, they approve your appeal. Applications denied in this step must apply for a disability hearing to argue their case in front of a judge.

Attend a Disability Hearing

If the SSA denies your reconsideration appeal, you must request a hearing with one of their official hearing offices. The SSA then sends your case to the office serving your area and sets up a hearing date.

At the hearing, the administrative law judge reviews all the evidence in your application and any new evidence you bring to the hearing. This includes medical records, doctors’ statements, and testimony from medical or vocational experts.

After the judge reviews your evidence and hears testimony from experts or witnesses, they make a final decision. Usually, this part of the disability benefits application process takes the longest. Some claimants must wait upwards of two years in some states to get a hearing.

Request Review by the Social Security Appeals Council (SSAC)

If your claim gets denied by the judge during your hearing, you can request a review from the Social Security Appeals Council. The council reviews your case to see if the judge decided your case correctly. If they decide to review your claim, they either make a final decision or send it to another judge for review. After this review, if the SSAC denies your claim, you have the option to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. However, very few claims ever make it this far.

What Evidence Should I Gather for My Appeal?

When you submit your appeal, you must make sure you have strong evidence to support your claim. Objective medical evidence is the most useful evidence during the appeals process. However, other evidence like witness statements or doctors’ notes helps strengthen your appeal as well.

Medical Records

If you have any gaps or inconsistencies in your medical records, your claim may get denied. While a social security disability appeal lawyer might help you get medical records faster, they usually charge you.

Once you get your medical records, you must review them to see if they are incomplete. Make sure you have hospital records, prescriptions, and medical bills related to your disability.

Doctors’ Notes

Another piece of evidence that helps improve your claim is a written statement from your doctor. If you have issues obtaining notes from your original doctors, you should try to get a second opinion from another doctor.

Questions to Expect During Your Disability Hearing

The disability hearing usually intimidates claimants, especially if they decide to represent themselves. 

At your hearing, the judge will hear testimony from a vocational expert (VE) hired by the SSA. The VE asks the claimant questions about their work conditions to determine if they can perform basic job functions.

The judge usually asks the VE hypothetical questions to determine if someone else with your ability could perform the same tasks. Once the judge finished questioning the AE, you have the option to cross-examine the VE. At this stage of the hearing, it’s important to have an experienced disability advocate on your side.

How a Disability Advocate Can Help You With Your Appeal

Instead of hiring a lawyer for your social security disability appeal, consider getting an advocate. Unlike social security disability appeal lawyers, advocates have specialized knowledge of disability rules. In fact, disability advocates must be certified by the SSA to represent claimants.

At GAR Disability Advocates, our specialists help with every step of the benefits application. This includes the initial claim, the reconsideration appeal, and the disability hearing. Most importantly, our advocates work on a contingency fee basis. If you don’t get approved for disability benefits, you owe us nothing.

If you would like to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits with an advocate, call us 201-720-1434 or fill out our online form for a free evaluation of your claim.