Only about one-third of Social Security disability claims are approved at the initial level. Read the denial notice you receive from Social Security carefully — it will tell you what you need to do. Generally, here are the next steps to take:
1) File an appeal right away!
2) Request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
3) Request review by the Appeals Council
4) Get help!
NOSSCR offers a referral service with experienced Social Security disability attorneys around the country. You may call NOSSCR at 1-800-431-2804 during regular Eastern Standard Time business hours.
When a claim for Social Security disability benefits is denied at the initial level, the next step for a claimant in most states is to request “Reconsideration,” or a re-evaluation of their case. The case is then reviewed a second time and a new decision is made. Unfortunately, in nearly 90% of the cases, the reconsideration decision is the same as the initial decision—a denial.
In most case Social Security makes the reconsideration determination within four months.
Processing time varies by hearing office. Nationally, the average processing time for an ALJ hearing in 2017 is 595 days.
About a year, maybe longer.
While tens of millions of Americans live with disabilities, Social Security disability benefits are restricted to individuals with the most severe disabilities and illnesses. Individuals who are unable to do “substantial gainful activity” (defined as gross earning of $1,220 per month in 2019 for non-blind individuals) due to one or more severe mental and/or physical impairments may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security wants to make sure that everyone who receives disability benefits meets Social Security’s definition of disability — a process that typically requires a review of extensive medical and other evidence.
Social Security has different, often stricter requirements for determining disability. While it will consider your doctor’s opinion or the decisions made by other agencies, Social Security must make its own decision of whether you meet the disability standard for Social Security disability benefits.
Many Social Security disability claimants become frustrated with claim delays and eventually ask their U.S. Representative or Senator to help. The local Congressional office typically will have staffers who are experienced with Social Security procedures and personnel. A “Congressional Inquiry,” as it is called, may help to get a stalled process moving again. However, a Congressional Inquiry will have no impact on how Social Security decides the outcome of the case.
Adapted from a publication from Charles T. Hall, Esq., NOSSCR Past President.