Guidelines in Appealing Social Security's Decision
Disabled Americans with limited income rely on Social Security benefits, allowing them to buy basic necessities such as food, medicine, clothing, and shelter, and thus giving them a decent life.
However, filing for disability claims may be quite challenging. According to Social Security Administration (SSA), two-thirds of applicants are usually denied the first time they file their claims.
Meanwhile, being denied does not mean people can no longer receive their benefits. Contrary to popular belief that there is no chance to overturn SSA’s initial decision, more than 60 percent of applicants who filed for an appeal in 2008 have received their claims.
The Importance of Appeal
Since the agency is known to be overly strict to claimants (because there has been an increase of fraudulent claims), even deserving people are sometimes denied with their claims. If this is the case, they can appeal the decision and expect that they have a 60 percent chance to get their benefits.
However, if someone knows that he is not really qualified for benefits, filing an appeal is just a waste of time and effort.
Four Levels of Social Security Appeal
According to SSA, there are four levels of appeal that will allow claimants to present evidences to prove their eligibility.
After being denied for the first time, a person can file for an appeal to allow SSA to review the case. According to the agency, the officer who will conduct the re-evaluation is not part of the initial decision to make sure that the second judgment is not bias.
When a claimant’s appeal is rejected in the reconsideration process and he does not agree with the decision, he can ask for a hearing which will be preceded by an administrative judge who is not part of the two initial decisions.
During this process, the judge will ask the claimant to present new evidences that will show his qualifications. Also, the judge will also ask the petitioner to bring witnesses such as doctors and health experts who can prove that he is eligible to receive the benefits.
If the claimant’s condition prevents him to attend the hearing, the judge will hold it through teleconferencing.
- Appeals Council
When a claimant’s appeal is rejected by the administrative judge and he does not agree with the decision, he can bring his case before the appeals council. However, the council sometimes denies the request for another appeal or returns it to the judge.
- Federal District
If the claimant’s petition is denied and does not agree with the appeals council’s decision, he can file a lawsuit before the federal district court which provides the last level of appeal.
SSA allows people to appeal their case without a lawyer. They can either represent themselves or they can ask their friends or relatives to assist them in making an appeal. However, it is advisable to have a professional legal representative who can help petitioners to gather evidences to prove their claims.