You’ve paid into Social Security your entire working life, so being denied for the disability benefits you need can feel like a betrayal. These benefits are intended to provide a safety net for those who are unable to work but, unfortunately, too many legitimate claims are denied.
The first thing you need to understand is that it’s probably not you. Most applications for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Social Security Insurance (SSI) benefits are denied the first time, regardless of merit. You can – and should- try again. In fact, those who appeal their denial have a stronger chance of being approved, especially if they use a Social Security Disability Appeal attorney.
At Harris Velázquez Gibbens, we understand how devastating a denial can be when you’re relying on disability benefits to provide for yourself and your family after an illness or injury. We also know that an initial denial is not the end of the road and will use our experience and resources to assist you through the appeals process. Terisa Page Gault, an attorney in our firm is our Social Security specialist and has handled thousands of social security cases. Terisa handles cases across the Pacific Northwest.
Appealing an SSD Denial in Oregon
If you are applying for SSD benefits, your local Social Security office will review the initial part of your application to ensure you meet the minimum eligibility requirements, such as having a sufficient work history (for SSDI) or limited resources and income (for SSI). If you appear to qualify, your claim is then forwarded to Disability Determination Services (DDS).
At the DDS office, you will be assigned a disability determination specialist who will review your application and confirm that your disability prevents you from working and supporting yourself. In order to determine your eligibility, the DDS will review your medical records and any other information it deems relevant.
If your claim is denied, the DDS will send you a letter, sometimes months later. This can be especially frustrating- after waiting so long for benefits, the only response is a rejection. This letter will explain that you can appeal the denial and provide you with a deadline but don’t try to fight for your benefits alone. Now is the time to get an Oregon Social Security Disability Lawyer.
How Can an SSD Appeal Lawyer Help?
An appeal usually begins with a request for reconsideration, asking the Social Security Administration to review your application again. Your information will be sent to a new disability determination specialist who had no role in your initial denial. Your claim will be evaluated by the new specialist as if it had never been considered before.
Before submitting your request for reconsideration, your Social Security Disability Appeal attorney at Harris Velázquez Gibbens will review and help you correct any problems with your original application.
For example, if your initial application did not include enough medical data or if you failed to provide testimony from a specialist regarding your condition, we will work with you to collect and include this information in your request for reconsideration. Your attorney can help you identify ways to strengthen your application and will do everything in their power to get your claim approved at this stage.
The good news is that disability applicants whose initial claim is denied can be approved at the reconsideration stage. Unfortunately, this is not common. If reconsideration is not successful, the next step is a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). During the hearing, you and your attorney will have the opportunity to present information that supports your claim. ALJs will consider all the evidence produced to them and make a determination based on that evidence.
If you aren’t approved for benefits at the hearing, you can ask for an appeal at the Social Security Appeals Council. There, the Appeals Council will examine past actions on your claim to determine if there have been any errors of law. It may conclude that your denial should be remanded to the hearings level, overturned and remanded for immediate payment of benefits, or it may uphold the previous denial.
If the Appeals Council declines review of your claim, then you may appeal to the US District Court. This is your first chance to appeal outside of Social Security’s administrative system. This means that a federal court can hear your case and review your claim history for errors.
Why are SSD Claims Denied?
Disability claims are denied for a wide range of reasons but the most common ones include:
- The application package was incorrect or incomplete. The Social Security Administration’s rules, regulations, and forms can be hard to understand. Even simple clerical errors have led to denials. Having a clear presentation of your case and filling out each form correctly is critical to your success.
- Lack of medical evidence. For your application to even be considered for approval, all medical evidence must be neatly outlined. You’ll need to include things like treatment records, doctor’s reports, hospital records, and testimonials from those who have witnessed how your disability has changed your life.
- Failure to obtain medical treatment. If you are applying for Social Security Disability, you must obtain medical treatment and follow your doctor’s instructions, or you could be denied for non-compliance.
- Not cooperating with the SSA. In order to be considered, you have to cooperate regardless of how you feel. In other words, you should allow them to access your medical records or even undergo a consultative exam. If you wish to win benefits, cooperation is essential.
Do I Have to Attend a Hearing?
If your request for reconsideration results in a claim denial, a disability hearing is your best shot at getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits.
A disability hearing provides you with the opportunity to present your case to the ALJ, who will evaluate the merits of your claim and to determine if you meet Social Security’s definition of a disability. They will follow the same evaluation process as the initial application process and request for reconsideration. If you do not attend your scheduled hearing, your claim may be dismissed. Therefore, you should attend a disability hearing and be prepared for it.
Will I Need an Attorney? How Will I Pay for the Attorney?
Generally speaking, you do not need a lawyer. Social Security Disability hearing procedures and the general issues in these cases are not impossibly complex. However, mistakes in preparing and presenting applications are common, and an attorney can present your case in the best light and increase your chances of success.
Regarding payment, Social Security attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means they collect a fee only if they win your claim. Clients sign fee agreements and the Social Security Administration reviews those agreements. If the SSA approves your fee agreement, your attorney will be paid directly from your backpay. The fee is set by federal statute and is not exceed $6,000 or 25% of your back pay received for you and your family, whichever is lower.
Get Help From Our Oregon Social Security Disability Appeal Lawyers Now
If you are relying on disability benefits for income and receive a denial, it can be debilitating. If this happens to you, appealing the SSA’s decision could give you the best chance of getting the benefits you and your family need.
The Social Security disability lawyers at Harris Velázquez Gibbens have the dedication and experience that can help you receive all the benefits you are entitled to. Contact us today by calling 503-648-4777 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.