Judge With Reconsideration and Appeal PaperworkIf you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, it's important to remember that most claims are denied in the initial application stage. However, a skilled Social Security disability attorney can be your advocate during the appeal process. From clarifying the distinction between a Request for Reconsideration and a Request for Hearing to providing invaluable legal expertise, an attorney can help you work towards receiving the benefits you need to provide for yourself and your family.

If you'd like to learn more about what to expect from the appeals process, we encourage you to request a free copy of Your Guide to a Successful Social Security Disability Claim: What Claimants, Their Family Members, and Healthcare Providers Need to Know. We've provided this helpful resource to explain the steps of an SSDI claim and help you make an informed decision about your need for legal representation.

Request for Reconsideration

A request for reconsideration is the initial step in the SSDI appeal process. If your application was denied, you have 60 days to file a Request for Reconsideration. This can be filed online or at your local SSA office.

A Request for Reconsideration involves asking the Social Security Administration to review your application again, including any new information you provide. This step aims to address any errors or omissions in your initial application, present new evidence showing how your condition has worsened since you first applied for benefits, or provide a more comprehensive explanation of your condition's impact on your ability to work.

How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Help

If you completed your initial application on your own, it is smart to consult an attorney before submitting your Request for Reconsideration. A qualified attorney can help you assess your initial application's weaknesses and determine the best strategies to strengthen your case. They can assist in gathering additional evidence, ensuring that all relevant details are included and explained clearly to increase the likelihood of a favorable reconsideration decision.

To bolster your appeal, your attorney may recommend adding the following types of evidence:

  • Updated medical records
  • Employment history documents
  • Test results from visits with specialists
  • Treatment plans from health care providers
  • Statements from former employers regarding your job duties and limitations caused by your disability

If you missed the 60-day deadline to file, your attorney may be able to help by preparing a Good Cause statement. This explains the delay and why you should be allowed to move forward with your application instead of being forced to restart the process. For example, a lengthy hospitalization or a death in the family might be valid reasons to submit a Good Cause statement.

Request for Hearing

If you are unsuccessful at the reconsideration stage but still believe you qualify for SSDI benefits based on medical conditions preventing gainful employment—don't lose hope. If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, the next stage is a Request for Hearing. You have 60 days from the date of denial to file your Request for Hearing.

A hearing involves presenting your case before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO). The purpose of the hearing is to provide an opportunity for you to present your case in person, provide testimony, and have witnesses support your claim. At this level, the judge's decision is completely independent and will not be affected by previous claim denials.

How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Help

An experienced attorney can help prepare you for the hearing, including advising you on what to expect, how to present your testimony effectively, and how to handle potential challenges from the ALJ. Your attorney will prepare a pre-hearing summary, which is a statement that lays out your employment history, medical history, and argument as to why you qualify for benefits. Depending on the specific circumstances of your claim, your attorney may also recommend having a vocational expert testify about how your disability affects your employment opportunities.

Statistically speaking, this is the level at which applicants represented by an attorney have the best chance of success. However, if your hearing is unsuccessful, your attorney can determine whether taking your case to the Appeals Council is in your best interest.

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