You've reviewed Social Security's Listing of Impairments and decide to file an Application for benefits. You file the Application and then what. Filing a disability claim is not a quick and easy process. In fact you may be waiting for over a year before your claim is even rendered a final decision, especially if you have to appeal before a Federal Judge.
Legal representation through a Disability Attorney significantly affects your claim process. You can hire a Disability Attorney at any time during the process of your claim. If you're denied though, I cannot stress enough the importance of having representation starting at least at the Hearing level. You'll definitely need an Attorney if you're appealing to Federal District Court.
We as Disability Lawyers don't require any payment upfront or a retainer fee. Period.
We don't charge you to fill out forms, for phone calls, filing applications and other work we may do in the process before representation. We're not paid unless you win your claim.
You've filed your application and it can take up to 3 months or so to receive a response of approval, or denial. Some people are approved at the initial level. However, a lot of people are denied for various reasons at the first stage, and it isn't a time to give up. You should appeal.
First Denial and Reconsideration Phase
If your initial application is denied, you will receive a denial letter. It explains exactly why you were denied and how long you have to appeal your decision. You should appeal. The appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration and should be timely filed. Failure to do so will trigger a claim having to be started all over again.
After reviewing the Letter of Denial and the supporting documentation is provided, you may be successful. If you are denied again, you should appeal to the next stage, where I would strongly urge you, if you don't have one to begin with, to gain the assistance of a Disability Lawyer.
The Hearing Phase before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Once you're denied at the Reconsideration Phase you have 60 days from the date of the Reconsideration Denial Letter to appeal. Your case will be argued before an Administrative Law Judge who reviews your case and again will deny, partially approve or approve your claim. Your lawyer will be able to help you prepare for the questions you may be asked. It would be to your benefit if you had a Disability Lawyer helping you at this stage.
Fortunately, you can scroll down and take a look at the Dallas ALJs decisions, and the nation's ALJs for that matter, and get an idea of how the denials and approvals rank.
The Appeals Council Phase (AC)
If you are denied by the ALJ you can appeal. You may be waiting over 6 months and onward up to a year, in order for this to be completed though. Again, you have 60 days from the date of receiving the letter from the ALJ to appeal, in writing. At this stage you're contesting legal or procedural errors in the ALJs decision, not the merits of your claim.
In this Phase:
Your claim is denied for review, at which point you again have 60 days to appeal and this time your appeal is to the Federal District Court; or
Your file is sent back to the ALJ for another Hearing and review; or
They make a decision on the merits of your claim and award disability benefits
Federal District Court – The Last Appeal
If the AC denies your claim and you feel that the merits of your case warrant it, you should appeal to the Federal District Court. This is the court of last resort in a Disability Claim and the judge here can approve or deny your claim, or even send the case back to the Administration to re-review. Less than half of cases are approved at this level.
So you may be asking, "Should I give up if I lose?" No. You can start over with a new Application. *See my Blog for 03/27/2020 for an explanation.
This blog is intended for information purposes only and does not establish legal representation or financial guidance.