Most people who apply for disability benefits are turned down at least twice. This is part of the process and par for the course. The numbers change from year to year, but roughly speaking 70% of people are turned down on the initial application.
What Do I Do If I Am Turned Down?
If your application for disability benefits is denied you only have 60 days from the date of your denial letter to appeal it. They allow another 5 days for mailing but no reason to push it. You will most likely be denied on at least two occasions. Most people (approximately 90%) are denied on the initial application. After you appeal that denial by requesting reconsideration, most people (approximately 80%) are denied again at the reconsideration level. At that point you request a hearing before an administrative law judge. It usually takes at least another 8 months to get that hearing. The whole process up to the time you actually see a judge usually takes about a year and a half. At least that is currently true in the Carolinas.
That is terrible news to hear, but if you were doing this 5 years ago people were actually waiting 3 years for a hearing. Things have actually improved. We understand that does not help you as you are struggling to make ends meet while you wait all that time to see a judge.
The important thing to remember here is that in order for your disability application to move forward you must appeal your denials. Too often we talk to people who did not understand that and spent years of their lives applying over and over again without appealing. It is almost impossible to win your claim that way.
You can appeal your denials a few different ways. For people who are comfortable on the computer the easiest way would be to do it is online on the Social Security Administration’s website. You could also fill out the appeals forms that they send you along with your denial. If you are not comfortable with either of those options you can always just take your denial letter right on down to the SSA office and ask them to appeal it for you there.
After the initial denial, you file a “Request for Reconsideration” form. After your are denied at the reconsideration level, you should file a “Request for Hearing Before an Administration Law Judge” form. Usually the appropriate appeals forms are mailed to you along with your denial letter. These forms can also be found on the Social Security Administration’s website at www.ssa.gov. You can also get these forms at your local SSA office.
An attorney can help you with this process by making sure your denials are appealed on time and sending in the proper documentation of your impairments along the way.