If an injury or illness has left you unable to retain gainful employment, you are probably looking for alternate ways to support yourself. Your resources are likely limited, but if you have an adequate work history, you may qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. Just because you qualify does not always mean you will receive the benefits you seek. Because of the high rate of fraud among those applying for disability, the SSA has stringent standards you must meet. They approve only about 30% of first-time applicants.
Nevertheless, this should not discourage you from seeking the benefits you need to maintain the most positive quality of life possible. If you have applied for disability but received a denial, you should not give up. You have options that may offer you a chance for success.
What’s the next phase?
One of the most common reasons why the SSA denies a claim is that the applicant fails to convince the agents that his or her condition meets the standards of a disability. That includes being severe enough to prevent you from performing basic activities, such as sitting, standing, walking or remembering, for one year or longer. If you can supply additional information that might persuade the SSA that you qualify, you have 60 days to appeal the decision. The appeals process has four levels:
- Reconsideration, during which different SSA agents will give a fresh look to your application, including any new evidence you provide
- An administrative law judge hearing, in which an impartial judge hears your case either in person or by video
- Review by the Appeals Council, which does not always agree to hear every request for appeal that it receives
- Federal court review, which is a lawsuit you can file after unsuccessfully completing each of the above steps
At any of these stages, you can offer additional information about your medical condition, such as reports from your doctors, test results, personal journals, and testimonies from your friends and co-workers. Thorough documentation can go a long way toward convincing the agency of your need for disability benefits.
There are deadlines for each of the stages of the appeals process, usually 60 days after you receive notice that the SSA has denied your application. Still, the agency may take a considerable amount of time to respond to your requests, so it is wise to act quickly if you know your condition will prevent you from working.