Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) can be complex. If you have do not have a neatly defined disease that clearly has left you disabled in a manner that fits within the Social Security Administration's (SSA) statutory definition, you must demonstrate by medical evidence that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity.
After you complete your application, you could be disappointed to find out that you have been denied SSD benefits. As disheartening as it may be, it is not the end of the process, but in many cases, only the first step in eventually obtaining your benefits. You may need legal help with the next stages of the process, but you should not give up and abandon your hope of being awarded disability benefits, as the majority of initial claims are denied.
The appeal process for SSDI benefits can encompass four stages. The first level of appeal is known as reconsideration. This means that your application is reviewed by a different claim's examiner, who did not take part in the initial submission of your claim, and is able to apply a "fresh set of eyes" to you application.
If they too, deny your claim, the next stage in the appeals process involves a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). An ALJ is an employee of the SSA, typically a lawyer with a great deal of experience handling SSD claims. The ALJ will review your application and any missing or new medical information that you can supply that will further support your claim for benefits.
Because you and other witnesses may appear at a hearing, many applicants for SSD find it helpful to have professional legal support at this stage. A lawyer can be a great help when dealing with the demands of a hearing, and may also be able to suggest the types of additional documentation that may be necessary to better support your claim.
Next week, we will look the next two stages of the SSD appeals process.
Source: socialsecurity.gov, "The Appeals Process," page accessed August 2015