In an ideal world, you would get quick approval after submitting your application for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. In reality, the initial application stage for Social Security disability is daunting and frustrating for many who apply. According to statistics from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the percentage of people who are awarded SSDI benefits after applying is just 21 percent. The approval rate at the application stage for SSI is slightly higher at 30 percent.
These statistics are discouraging, but a denial from SSA on your initial application is not the end of your claim. You have the opportunity to take your claim further by going through a disability hearing. While the application stage is hands-off, a hearing offers the chance to appear in-person. With a well-developed strategy, solid evidence, and effective arguments, your situation may be more convincing. It is wise to retain an Arizona SSDI/SSI disability hearings lawyer for assistance, since the proceedings are similar to a trial and highly complex. An overview about Social Security disability hearings is also useful.
Why Initial Applications are Denied:
SSDI and SSI benefits offer financial benefits to approved claimants, so you can probably guess that there is the potential for abuse. To curtail misconduct and ensure that benefits only extend to those that qualify, SSA carefully reviews all applications. Even minor mistakes can lead to a denial, and the most common errors are related to key requirements for SSDI and SSI. For example:
- You did not include sufficient information on the medical requirement, in which you must prove that you have an injury or ailment that prevents you from working or limits your capabilities. This medical condition must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.
- You may not have provided enough detail on your work history for SSDI, a program that reviews how long you worked and paid FICA taxes.
- If you do not submit information about your income and assets, your SSI application may be denied. This needs-based disability program evaluates your net worth.
Requests for Reconsideration:
Because a large percentage of SSDI/SSI applications are denied, there is a way to have SSA take another look at your paperwork. You must file a Request for Reconsideration within 60 days after receiving a decision from SSA. In some cases, when another agent reviews your documentation, your application could be accepted. When working through the reconsideration process, it is smart to include any additional medical records since filing your initial application.
If your application was denied on the grounds that you did not earn sufficient work credits, you can make corrections or submit payroll details. For SSI applicants, reconsideration allows you to request that SSA re-evaluate the value of assets and income.
What Happens at a Disability Hearing:
If your Request for Reconsideration is rejected, your next step is going before SSA for a disability hearing. This proceeding is very similar to a trial, and it is presided over by an administrative law judge (ALJ). Besides you and your attorney, legal counsel for SSA will also be present.
During the disability hearing, you will be allowed to present your position and convince the ALJ as to why SSA should approve your application for SSDI or SSI benefits. The ALJ will consider:
- All medical records showing how you meet the medical requirement;
- Testimony from medical experts;
- Information from vocational experts, who will testify regarding how your medical condition impacts your ability work;
- Whether there are other employment opportunities that would enable you to earn an income; and,
- Many other factors.
At the conclusion of the disability hearing, the ALJ will assess all evidence and testimony from you and SSA. You will receive a notification about the decision shortly thereafter. If you are not successful in getting approval for SSDI/SSI after the disability hearing, there are additional steps. You can request a review by the SSA Appeals Council, and you have 60 days to submit the proper forms to SSA. The Appeals Council evaluates the ALJ’s findings and determines whether the hearing decision was correct.
Trust an Arizona Social Security Disability Hearings Attorney to Guide You
If your initial application for SSDI/SSI benefits was denied, do not let feelings of discouragement prevent you from taking the next, rightful steps. Our team at Pekas Smith: Arizona Disability Attorneys has the skills and knowledge to overcome challenges, and we are experienced with disability hearing. To set up a no-cost case review, please call 602.892.7667 or visit us online.