Do SSI Lawyers Really Help You with Your Disability Claim?

Do SSI Lawyers Really Help You with Your Disability Claim?

Did you know that hiring an SSI Lawyer to help with your appeal can increase your chances of being approved by double?

How? Why? Does it matter that much to retain a great SSI lawyer? 

Reasons to Hire an SSI Lawyer

The process of applying for SSI can take anywhere from one month to three years (Initial decision through any appeals if needed). Having someone to help you at any point during the process will make it less stressful and ensure you meet deadlines and guidelines.  Missed deadlines are one of the big reasons disability claims end up getting denied in the first place.

In addition to helping you to meet all deadlines, even the ones you did not know existed, SSI Lawyers should be able to access medical evidence, employment records, and all the other parts of your life that go into making an airtight case for the benefits you rate.  The goal is always to present the best case that demonstrates you meet the Social Security Administration’s official disability definition.

Your attorney will also spend time preparing you for questions you may come to face when in an appeals hearing, such as:

  • Describe your symptoms?
  • Are you currently seeing a physician for your disability?
  • When were you unable to continue work?
  • Are you still able to take care of personal hygiene?
  • How long can you be physically active before needing to rest?

This is a very brief overview; for a more in-depth discussion on SSI Appeals, and the steps necessary to win them.

You might also want to read: “Your Odds, Getting Your Social Security Claim Approved”


Talk to an SSI Lawyer About Your Case, Today!

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Cost of a Disability Lawyer

There are little to no out of pocket fees to hire SSI lawyers! Disability lawyer fees are paid out of your back pay for your benefits and are limited to 25% (up to $6000). You will be asked to sign a contingency fee agreement stating that they will only get paid if you receive disability benefits.   Any out of pocket fees you pay will be from medical record requests, any copies, and sometimes postage. Be sure to ask up front, what out-of-pocket fees you may have and if you need to pay them before or after they close your case.

If you would like to discuss your case with a disability lawyer, feel free to give us a call!

How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

Applying for Social Security in Washington State can be an overwhelming process. 

If you are one of the greater than 70% of those who are initially denied your claim, it can be devastating, and your path to getting the benefits you have earned can be hard to see. 

What should you do?  Who can help you? This article was written to give you some clarity.

The first step is calm down, take a deep breath, and if needed contact a disability professional to help you. 

The first thing to know is that your denial letter should explain why you were denied and give you a list of the places social security requested and received medical evidence.  It is very common to read through these letters and be confused and frustrated.  Clearly the Social Security Administration missed the mark somewhere; otherwise, you would not even be reading this article.  Nevertheless – you should familiarize yourself with their statements and prepare yourself for your appeal options.  

Here are your four appeal levels for Social Security in Washington State.

Request for Reconsideration

With your denial letter in hand, you now have 60 days (plus five days for mailing) from the date you received your denial notice to complete a request for reconsideration form and return it to the Social Security address listed in your letter.  You can do this either by mail or by dropping it off at your local Social Security office.   Here is a handy tool to locate Social Security offices in Washington State.

If you were denied because the Social Security Administration did not determine you to be disabled, ask to see what medical evidence they have in your file. When filing your request for reconsideration, you should seek to include as much of the following as possible with your request for reconsideration form:

  • Letter from your doctor stating why he believes you are disabled
  • Letter from friends or family stating how your disability has affected your day to day activities
  • Additional medical evidence that was not originally included in your claim

You do not need to be present for the reconsideration.

And remember, if you are denied because Social Security believes you no longer have a disability, you do have the option to meet with a Washington State Social Security representative to explain you still have a disability.

Talk About Your Social Security Denial With A Disability Lawyer Today

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Disability Hearing

If your request for reconsideration is denied, then you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Typically, the time between your request and the hearing is 1-2 years, though this timeline can vary widely depending on where you live.  In Spokane, WA – the timeline for disability hearings was 487 days as of the date this article was written.  It is important for you to attend the hearing and bring your representative (if you have one).

Other witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts will likely testify for Social Security.  You or your attorney representative will be able to ask them questions during the hearing and make a strong case for your disability is a barrier to employability.

After the hearing, the judge will make a decision, and you will receive a letter and copy of the decision.

Review by the Appeals Council

If you disagree with the decision made by the judge on your appeal, you can ask for the decision on your claim to be reviewed by the Appeals Council.  At this point, if you have not used a Social Security Disability attorney, it is necessary to start consulting with one.

In short, the Appeals Council will look at your request and decide if they agree with the hearing decision – the decision of the judge based on the evidence provided.

If they believe the ALJ (administrative law judge) decision was correct, then the judge’s decision will be upheld.

If the appeals council believes there was an error in the ALJ’s decision, they may remand your claim back to another administrative law judge for another appeals hearing.

And, rarely, but it does happen – the Appeals Council will overturn a denied claim if they believe the judge’s decision was completely in error. This action would result in an approved disability claim.

Here is data on the Appeals Council Requests for Review so you can get an idea of their backlog.

Federal Court Review

If you do not agree with the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit in the Federal District Court.  In the letter sent to you about the Appeals Council decision, you will find information on how to file with the federal court.  You will need an attorney at this point, in any case.  They should be aware of the process of filing a federal district court lawsuit.

5 Warning Signs You Might Have a Lousy Disability Lawyer

5 Warning Signs You Might Have a Lousy Disability Lawyer

When you file for Social Security Disability (SSDI), it is a good idea to begin talking to a disability lawyer. Engaging the expertise of a Social Security Disability Lawyer early in your application process can help avoid some of the big reasons claims get denied later on.

One of the big challenges of finding and retaining a disability lawyer, though, is that there are many lawyers to choose from, and not all of them are as good as they could be.

So, when you hire a lawyer how do you know if you have a good lawyer?

Here are five warning signs that you might have a lousy disability lawyer.

Your Disability Lawyer is Not Available

Disability lawyers usually have a lot of cases they are working on so you may not always speak to your lawyer when you call. However, you should always be able to speak with someone at the lawyer’s office (secretary, an assistant, paralegal).

If they are unable to answer your question, your disability lawyer or someone who can answer your questions should return your call in a reasonable amount of time. If this is not happening, you may want to find a lawyer who will be more accessible to you when you have questions or concerns.

Your Disability Lawyer Makes Impossible Promises

Having a disability lawyer does not guarantee that you will win your case. A disability lawyer should never promise that they will win your case. They need to be upfront and tell you what chance you should have. Most disability lawyers will not take your case unless they feel there is a chance of winning, but again that does not guarantee it. A disability lawyer should also never promise you a dollar amount if you should win your case.

Your Disability Lawyer Doesn’t Follow-Through

If your disability lawyer says they are going to do something and they do not follow through, then this should raise some red flags. Their job is to help you gather the medical evidence and statements that will help make your case strong. When they say they are going to contact your medical professionals or third-parties to collect the evidence, they should be following through. You will not have a case if this is not done promptly.

Your Disability Lawyer Doesn’t Meet With You

Your disability lawyer should call you or meet with you in person a month or two before your hearing to prepare you for the hearing. They should review with you questions you may be asked during the hearing and help you prepare answers that will benefit your case not harm it.

Your Disability Lawyer is Not Respectful

A disability lawyer should be respectful of your situation and not make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about. They should be kind and understanding when you explain your situation and help you understand the process. They should also be respectful of your time.

This goes back to number one above (availability) as well as working with your schedule when scheduling meetings or phone calls.

You Deserve Better and It’s Not Too Late

If your disability lawyer is doing any of these, you should probably get a different lawyer. Filing for SSDI is already confusing and difficult enough without your lawyer making it complicated. When choosing a disability lawyer, asking questions before even meeting with them will help you find the right lawyer for you.  Here is an article that will help find a great disability lawyer.

How Does Social Security Define Incapacitated?

How Does Social Security Define Incapacitated?

To receive Social Security benefits, you must have worked jobs that are covered by Social Security as well as have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of “incapacitated.”

Social Security has a strict method to define incapacitated. Unlike other programs, to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must typically be incapacitated (disabled) and have done insignificant (non-substantial) work for the past 12 months.

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) define incapacitated? In order, to be considered incapacitated, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that you be unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA).

More On Substantial Gainful Activity

According to the SSA, substantial work activity means you are doing significant physical or mental activities even if it is part-time or your income is less than when you became incapacitated.

Gainful activity is something that you get paid to do or could get paid to do, even if you are not getting paid to do those activities. We are talking about volunteering, home business, babysitting (potentially) and similar.

Moreover, there is also a wage component to SGA. You might be able to do minimal work but not earn a basic minimum wage in doing so, due to your disabling conditions or incapacity. For 2017, that amount is $1,170 for non-blind applicants and $1,950 for blind applicants. If you are making over this amount per month from your job, then the SSA believes that you are not disabled and can engage in competitive employment.

Finances Do Factor into Some Disability Discussions, But Not All

The SSA does not take into consideration any money you bring in from outside sources such as interest, investment, or gifts when looking at SGA for SSDI. However, low earnings do not necessarily constitute low SGA. For example, if you are working as a substitute teacher, you can still be found as doing SGA though you are not likely getting paid very much, or very regularly.

In that example, your low-income rate is not due to being disabled, but rather due to the on-call nature of your job. In this same vein, volunteer activities could also be considered SGA if they are something that could be considered a paying job, even if irregular, or non-paying. The fact that others earn a living doing the work could leave the impression that you are not incapacitated from doing the same.

On the other side of the coin, high earnings do not necessarily mean you were doing SGA either. For instance, if you are working under certain special circumstances, your wage might not have any correlation with your incapacity. Here are some examples:

  • You required assistance for co-workers to complete your tasks
  • You were able to take a frequent rest break or able to work irregular hours
  • Special equipment was provided to assist you in your tasks
  • Work was assigned specifically to you based on your disability
  • You relied on other people to transport you to and from work
  • A lower standard of productivity or efficiency was allowed due to your disability

Incapacity and SGA

You can probably see at this point how the SSA looks at SGA to define “incapacitated” and apply it to your situation or to state that you are not incapacitated. If the SSA sees that you are making SGA, your claim will be likely be denied barring special circumstances (as listed above). This is the point where you want to reach out for help if you have not done so already.

So what if you recently quit working but are not sure you cannot work elsewhere or perform SGA? If you apply for benefits and then stop working due to your disability, you can keep looking for opportunities to earn work. In fact, if you are successful in becoming gainfully employed, that is great! If however, you are unsuccessful, those can be considered unsuccessful work attempts and with the help of a good advocate, they will help to make your SSDI case stronger with the SSA.

SGA Helps to Define Incapacitated!

Substantial gainful activity plays a considerable part in the Social Security Administrations approach to define incapacitated; though there are many grey areas involved. In fact, we covered just a few above. There are most certainly more. If you have questions about how to define incapacitated as it relates to your specific situation, please reach out to us today, and we will give you a clear assessment of your situation.

How to Help Your Disability Lawyer Win Your Social Security Claim & Appeal

How to Help Your Disability Lawyer Win Your Social Security Claim & Appeal

When filing for disability through the Social Security Administration, here is a list of eight things you can do to help your disability lawyer win your claim.

Keep this list handy, in case anything on it changes. And if you are just now reaching out to a disability lawyer, here are some of the things you can expect you will need to provide

Provide Basic Demographic Information

  • Information about you
  • Birthdate, place of birth, and social security number
  • Your current and any former spouse’s name, birthdate, age, social security number, marriage date and dates of divorce or death
  • Dates of birth and names of minor children
  • Account number and routing number of your financial intuition if you want direct deposit of your benefits
  • Information about your medical condition
  • Contact information for someone who knows about your medical conditions and can help with your application, such as a family member
  • Information about your illness, injury, or condition such as detailed information about all doctors, clinics, or hospitals who have treated you (name, address, phone number, patient ID, and dates of treatment)
  • List of prescription medications and the prescribing doctor
  • List of what medical tests you have had done including names and dates and who requested them
  • Information about your work
  • Gross pay for last year and the current year
  • Contact information for current employer (last year as well)
  • A copy of your social security statement
  • Information about all jobs help the past 15 years
  • Information for any other benefits you may be applying for such as Worker’s compensation, disability from the military, etc.

Get Your Documentation In Order

  • Proof of birth such as a birth certificate
  • Proof of US citizenship or lawful alien status
  • US military discharge papers (if before 1968)
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns
  • Medical evidence
  • Proof of any temporary or permanent worker’s compensation type benefits you receive

Sign Releases of Information

Sign a medical privacy release allowing your attorney to request any medical information you did not provide or any information your attorney needs to help your case. Your disability lawyer will also use this to request supportive statements from your doctors.

Prepare For Your Hearing With Your Disability Lawyer

Your lawyer will go over questions that could be asked of you during your hearing. Answer these as truthfully as possible even if you feel embarrassed. Your disability lawyer is not there to judge you; just to get as much information to help you win your case as possible.

Expect to be able to answer:

Questions related to your mood.

“How are you feeling?”
“Are you anxious?”
“Are you depressed?”
“Do your medications make you feel different?”
“Are there things you do not enjoy anymore?”
“How do you get along with people?”

Questions about treatment:

“Do you see a doctor for your disabilities?”
“How long have you been injured or sick?”
“Have you tried any treatment?”
“Do you take medications?”
“Do your medications have any side-effects?”
“Do you take any medication?”
“Do you take the prescribed dosage of all medications?”
“Do you have health insurance?”

Questions about employability:

“How did you know you were too sick to work?”
“When did you become unable to work?”
“Are you able to work now?”

Lifestyle Questions:

“Do you use alcohol or other recreational drugs?”
“Do you abuse any substances?”
“Are you seeking substance abuse help or assistance?”
“Have you been incarcerated?”
“What were you incarcerated for?”
“Do you take care of yourself?”
“Can you cook, clean, drive, and shop on your own?”
“Are there things you cannot do that you used to enjoy?”
“What is your average day?”
“Can you lift (common objects)?”
“How far can you walk?”
“Do you use stairs at home, in public?”
“Can you read?”
“Can you write?”
“What is your education?”
“What are your symptoms?”

Reach Out to Your Medical Providers

Ask your current physician to support your disability case and have him/her fill out a detailed statement or an RFC (residual functional capacity) form.

Pay Attention to Timelines

Respond as soon as possible to letters and notices and attend any medical exams scheduled by disability determination services (DDS).

Stay in Contact With Us

Check the status of your disability case on a regular basis.  Call into the office, let us know you are still around 🙂

Have Patience, Even When It Is Challenging

Always be courteous, patient, and kind to all the people working on your case including your local social security rep, DDS, and your disability lawyer – if possible.

Here’s another article you might find helpful after having read this one!

 How to win Your SSI Appeal Step-by-Step

Disability Hearing: Tips From a Disability Lawyer

Disability Hearing Tips From a Disability Lawyer

Are you ready for your disability hearing? You are going to be side by side with your attorney, in front of an administrative law judge. Experts will be commenting on your desire and ability to work. And, you will have many things on your mind.

What if they think I am faking my injury?
How will they make a decision?
When will I be able to move past this appeal!?
Is this Social Security nightmare almost over?

This period before your hearing is an uncomfortable time for most people. You are not alone in wondering how everything is going to proceed when you finally get your day in front of the ALJ. Here are a couple of tips to help you get yourself in a mindset that will reduce, though not likely eliminate, your anxiety.

Review Your Challenges & Barriers

At this point, you are bar-none the expert on knowing what your challenges are. How they impact you on a daily basis, and how you are unable to establish and maintain employment because of them. However, you should not be complacent and feel that you can “wing it” when asked.

Even before meeting with your disability attorney for your pre-hearing discussion, you should go over all the issues at least one more time by yourself. Take an hour or so and write down, exactly what challenges you face every day.

Start your review with thinking about how you get up in the morning, make breakfast, your daily routine, evening routine, leisure, chores, nightly routine, and sleep/rest.

This tip sounds simple, almost to the point of unnecessary, but often, we get so busy doing things that we forget the challenges we have to overcome to accomplish them. Taking a couple of minutes to review your day, and write things down, often results in a better personal understanding of your challenges, and puts you in a better frame of mind to recall them for others.

If you have been keeping a disability journal – you have 90% of this covered already.  You just have to simply review it.

Review Your Disability Claim

Now that you have considered your daily barriers, you should examine your disability claim. Make sure to look at things like, when you filed your disability claim. Who helped you file your disability claim? Also, what has the experience been like since you filed your claim?

Try to get a basic timeline put together of your current disability application status. Include application dates, appeals, doctors’ appointments, and even disability lawyer visits if that applies. All of these items are no-doubt already facts of the case, and readily available for both your disability lawyer and the judge, but you should strive to have an accurate and easily recallable understanding of how your disability claim has ended up at the hearing level too.

At worst, going through this exercise will be a bit of time out of your day. However, it might help you to be more effective in telling your story in context during the upcoming hearing, or in conversation with your disability lawyer before the hearing.

Show Up Early to Your Disability Hearing

If there was/is ever a time to be early for something this is it. It is very possible, your disability lawyer set up a prehearing conference with you, just to avoid this. However, regardless of why you should plan to be early, make it happen.

Plan for traffic to be the worst traffic in history. Plan for your vehicle to break down in your driveway. Realize that the bus will miss your stop. Understand that your alarm will break in the middle of the night while you are fast asleep. In the worst of all possible scenarios, how will you make it to your hearing?

Talk to Your Disability Lawyer

This last tip should be obvious, assuming you have a good disability lawyer. However, it is not uncommon to hear stories about claimants who meet their disability lawyer for the first time just prior to their hearing.

If you have a disability lawyer that has given you very little information or even ideas on how to prepare for your hearing, now is the time to be proactive. It may already be very difficult to change horses so far downstream, but that does not mean you have to be completely passive in regards to your disability claim.

Ask your disability lawyer, or their assistant, how you can best prepare. Ask them what info you should bring, whether you are going to be meeting with them, and what to expect. A great disability lawyer will not throw you to the wolves, they will prepare you for your hearing, and will help you so that you do not get blindsided during it.

If you are only now retaining a disability lawyer, keep in mind how well they communicate. We have talked about this before, and the particular threat of going to a disability hearing unprepared is a poignant example of why communication and working with a great disability lawyer matters.

Talk To A Lilac City Law Disability Lawyer Today!
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4 Items in Your Disability Journal That Will Help You Win Your SSDI Appeal

4 Items in Your Disability Journal That Will Help You Win Your SSDI Appeal

 

Social Security Disability appeals can be arduous.  They often take an incredibly long time to process.

The questions asked by medical experts and judges can leave you confused, and to top it all off, you’re expected to remember minute details about a condition that has been plaguing you for years (by the time you actually get to talk to a judge). 

A very simple thing you can do today that can really make a big difference in your claim or appeal is to start keeping a disability Journal. 

Here are 4 easy steps you can follow to create a disability journal today.

 

Recording Everything About Your Illness or Injury

You may think your illness/injury is pretty straight forward and that it doesn’t need further explanation; however, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone should or does understand your condition(s).  Your best bet is to do your best to capture the actual impacts your injuries or illnesses manifest in your life and let that description tell your story.  In this way, you can add more than a diagnostic description to your condition, you can tell a story in your own words of how you’re affected every single day.

To start off, your disability journal should include the date, time and duration of any barriers or challenges.  For instance, an episode of pain or seizures, etc.  It should also include the level of severity for pain, seizures, or other barriers and include the time of the day and/or how frequent you experienced it.

Make sure to note down what, if any, triggers may have caused pain, anxiety, or other issues.  Specific foods, times of day, proximity to people, activities, sounds, and stress are all common triggers, but many others exist and this is not even close to an exhaustive list.

Some illnesses or injury can be hard to explain so don’t worry about getting things perfect, just try to give it your best shot to describe your situation as you live it, and the true impact of your injuries or illnesses will become apparent to any non-biased reader of your journal.

 

Including Your Medication in Descriptions of Your Barriers

Many, maybe most, medical condition involve medication at some point.  Certain medications can cause side effects such as drowsiness, diarrhea, disorientation, hallucination, etc. These side effects can prove to be positive or negative with respect to their impact on your life.  Regardless, include it in your disability journal.  If you can’t drive due to drowsiness, put it down.  How does that make you feel, sad?  Write about it.  One of the things many people miss discussing in claims for Social Security disability is the issue of side-effects due to the medication they’re taking to cope with their injury or illness.  It’s all related, and you are doing yourself a disservice by not sharing the entire impact of your condition if you don’t talk about this.

Sometimes medications can be confusing or hard to differentiate in describing them to others.  One trick might be to tape a copy of your medication label in your disability journal.  By doing this, you’ll have a record of what was prescribed, and when you took it.  That could come in handy at a later date when someone asks about medications you took in the past.  You’ll also be able to look at how they affected you, how often those medications had an impact, and what – if anything- you were able to do to cope with the barriers they (the medication) presented.

 

Being Honest in Your Disability Journal

It may seem awkward at times to keep such a detailed disability journal of your condition(s).  One of the biggest surprises people find is that things they didn’t think happened a lot, actually, pop up on a daily basis.  And other things: aches and other pains aren’t as common as they seem.  This can be a really tempting time to elaborate, exaggerate, and stretch the truth a little.  Be careful you don’t fall into that temptation.  We promise you if you keep a record of your challenges it’s going to tell a far more compelling story if it’s accurate to your situation than it will if it contains false information.

You don’t have to exaggerate your condition.  You’re not able to work because of it, your condition! That’s the barrier.  This journal will help you to describe it, detail it, and record it.  But if you’re not honest in using the journal, you’ll never be able to use it as an effective tool if someone takes a critical look at it.

Stay true to yourself and you don’t have to worry about telling different stories to different people.

 

Keeping Your Disability Journal Up to Date

For something like a disability journal to be helpful, it’s got to be updated on a regular basis.  You can get to the point that it’s a habit to do the journal – it only takes a month or so to reach that point.  It’s certainly plausible that even this idea might take some effort – if your conditions include injuries to your hands, for instance.  Or from being able to move across the room to access your notes.  If these are the cases, you can do videos on your cell phone or even audio recordings.

No matter how you record your day-to-day, if you keep adding your life impacts of your injuries or illnesses, your final case will be much stronger.  Help yourself to help yourself.  If you do have barriers, reach out to a great Social Security law firm, and ask if they can help you with any ideas.

 

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How to Win A Social Security Appeal (Step-by-Step)

How to Win An SSI Appeal Step by Step

If you have applied for SSI or SSDI, you probably know that for many, getting approved on your first shot is a challenge. 

Getting approved is not an impossible challenge, but the odds can be against you if you did not sufficiently prove your disability, or if you did not demonstrate how you rate social security benefits. 

If you now have, or fear that you will have a denial letter in hand, here’s a step-by-step approach to help you in appealing an SSI or SSDI denial.

 

Step 1: Create a Plan to Appeal Your SSI or SSDI Denial

If you do receive the dreaded denial letter the first thing you should do is not panic. Take a few breaths, and accept that this is not the end of the process.  Like most initial applicants, you have been denied.  However, the evidence shows that if you stick with the claim, you have a strong chance of eventually overturning the denial in appeal.

Of course, your chances of success at this point are directly related to the quality of your plan and your ability to execute it.  Or for many, to find someone who can build a plan for you and carry it out as well.  We are talking about a professional advocate or attorney.

Step 2: Retain an Attorney

Also, you can retain an attorney at almost any point during the claim or appeal process.  However, hiring an attorney early on is the more prudent approach. 

There are some reasons, a lot of reasons actually, that you would want to consider this as an option.  First being that this is one form of law that is based entirely on contingency.  If a lawyer does not win your case for you, they will not be getting paid.  Everyone then, you and the law firm, has a financial incentive, and hopefully a personal one too, to get you the benefits you need.

The second reason, and from a coldly logical perspective, a very powerful reason is that you might go through this process only once in your life.  Many of the things that will gum-up the process are avoidable.  And the un-avoidable issues can be addressed quickly and efficiently if you know they are likely to arise.  Only going through this process once, you have to learn all of this the hard way, or be extremely lucky.  Alternatively, a disability attorney goes through these processes a couple of hundred times a year (thousands of times in a career).

You can get pretty good at handling these things throughout several thousand claims. Still, for the die-hard do-it-yourself type, we will go back to the step-by-step.  Remember though; you can retain an attorney at almost any point in the process.

Step 3: File for Reconsideration

You need to know that at the point of denial the clock starts ticking.  60 days.  That’s what you have to act.  Whether that action is retaining a disability attorney or beginning the process of appeal yourself, you need to make sure you do so before 60 days is up.  Otherwise, you’re going to have to start all over again.

You can file for reconsideration a couple of ways.  One way is to file a Form SSA-561 (Request for Reconsideration).  The other is to file online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeal.  The basic instructions for this process will also likely accompany your disability denial letter.

So what is a reconsideration, you ask?  It’s an independent review of the original claim by someone who has not been a part of the original decision.  Their job is to take a look at the initial evidence submitted (by you or others) and to take into account any new evidence you might have.  This last point is something that you want to start investigating at this point too.

Step 4: Get Your Records Together

To understand the basis for your disability denial, you usually have to investigate what records the Social Security Administration considered in making their determination.  It’s very common for critical pieces of medical evidence to be absent from the disability determination records.  It may be that you, or your doctor, didn’t share specifically what was needed.  Or that there was confusion about the conditions leading to your inability to work.

Whatever the case may be, getting a copy of your records is going to be essential to re-stating, re-phrasing, and correcting your appeal claim.   Write down a list of all the doctors, therapists, support groups, or even friends who’ve helped you during the last five years.  If you can’t remember the last five years, write down what you can remember.


Tip!

Sometimes remembering when a meeting or appointment occurred can be hard. Using holidays or key dates as markers to your memory can be very helpful.

For example, if you remember you had a Dr. appointment a couple of years ago but not when thinking about what else you had to adjust to make it happen.

“I remember I had to schedule that Dr. appointment around Thanksgiving because my sister was visiting..”  <-  The appointment happened sometime before or after Thanksgiving.

It can be hard to remember all this stuff, but if we use something we’re better at remembering to act as a memory anchor, it can help.


Step 5: Start Working on Understanding Why you Were Denied

Good to go, you’re getting your records together.  This simple act is going to give you the tools to understand where your claim went sideways.  At this point, you want to work on figuring out if there was a lack of understanding on the part of the Social Security Administration, or was there a lack of evidence.  Sometimes these go together.

If it was a lack of understanding, you can start approaching the problem from the perspective that Social Security has all the evidence, they didn’t have the understanding to put it together.  Naturally, you’re the one living your life, so in many respects, you’re the only one who knows how your challenges affect your ability to work.  Not even your doctor may understand why you can’t pursue gainful activity.

This brings up a very common situation.  Although we are all the expert on what we experience, we can’t always describe it or convey it very well.  Sometimes, we lack the speaking or writing ability to describe adequately the level of impairment we are facing.  Consider trying to convey the level of your disability in various ways (recorded conversation, writing it down, pictures, etc.).

The whole point of understanding, in this step, is to put yourself in the place where you can see why your claim was denied.  If it was as we just described a lack of understanding on the part of Social Security, you can focus on making it more clear to everyone the challenges you face.  If however, your problem was a lack of evidence, you can attack that problem in a relatively straightforward approach.  Get the evidence, everywhere you can.

 

Step 6: Request an SSI Appeal Hearing (If Your Reconsideration is Denied)

No one is going to be surprised that reconsiderations often result in the same outcome as the initial claim.  You have very little time to file for reconsideration and you’re probably still trying to get a grasp on why the initial application was denied – all while the reconsideration is processing.

Let’s assume for the sake of this step-by-step approach that your reconsideration failed to overturn the initial disability denial.  At this point, you can (should) request a hearing.

A hearing is your chance to present to an administrative law judge (ALJ) your claim.  You can provide witnesses and there may also be professional witnesses present (medical or vocational experts) as well.

After the hearing, you’ll receive a determination from the judge, usually received via US Mail.

 

Step 7: Study!  Find Info to Help You Through This Process

During this whole process, you should be looking to find resources to help you out. You don’t want to be figuring this out on your own.  If you do, you’re hurting your chances, and potentially costing yourself further financial burden and stress.


Here are some resources to help you with the process:

The Appeals Process: This is a PDF from Social Security that helps you understand the process of appealing.

Disability Answers WA State: This is a Facebook page built for the community and to facilitate sharing information for those experiencing disabilities.

Lilac City Law Blog: Shameless plug here, but we’re genuinely trying to provide as much information as possible for those working through the disability claims process.  And for those that need the help, we ensure that too.

Social Security Disability Resource Center: An incredible, free resource, compiled by a former disability claims examiner.  The goal is to inform applicants about the Social Security Disability and SSI claims & appeals process.

Our Lilac City Law Ultimate Disability Guide: A free resource that breaks down the basics in an easy to read & portable format.  

4 Biggest Myths About Social Security E-Book: Get to know how & why this process is confusing.  And best of all, what you can do to find success in your claim!

Step 8: Work on Centering Yourself

This step is about self-care.  In truth, this process is slow, it is stressful, and it doesn’t always result in the correct decision.  Sometimes you need to go through it more than once, and sometimes you need to appeal to a higher authority.  Regardless of where you fall in this whole mess, having a sense of urgency is going to result in you potentially harming your mental health.  The system won’t go faster, unfortunately.

Consider, joining a support group on Facebook (you can even join our Facebook page and share your questions & frustrations there).    Other things to consider is making sure your close family or friends know what that you’re pursuing this.  While this might be something you want to keep to yourself, you very easily could end up needing some moral support during the appeal process.  It’s not usually easy.

And, the last point on this, don’t discount the value of a good therapist — someone who can help you to stay confident and centered during the appeal.

 

Step 9: After the SSI Appeal Hearing

Well, one way or another, you’re going to get a decision.  It may be great – “your claim has been approved, and here’s the expected back-pay amount.”  Or it may feel like Groundhog’s day, yet another denial.  If you’re denied at the hearing level, is it the end?  No.

You can keep going; you have the option of asking for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council.  At this point, though, some requests are denied.  Meaning, you may not be given a review by the Appeals Council.  If the Appeals Council denies the review, you’ll receive a letter as to why you remain denied. You can either re-file for disability at this point (yes back to the beginning, sorry) or you can file

If the Appeals Council grants a review, they may review themselves or send it to back to an ALJ (judge) for review.

At this point, if you disagree with an Appeals Council decision, or if they decided not to review the claim, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court.

This will all be laid out in the decision letters you receive at each stage of the process.

 

Step 10: Keep At It! Never Give Up on Your SSI or SSDI Appeal

The best thing you can do to eventually get the decision you’re looking for is to stick with your claim!  Keep at it.  Don’t miss deadlines, and reach out for help when you need it.  Or even before you need it.  Do your best to be pro-active.  And try as best you can to stay patient and stay centered.

We are here to help you with your disability appeal. Contact us by filling out the form below and we’ll get back to you asap!