Obtaining Social Security disability benefits is challenging. The application process can be complicated and confusing, and there are very strict eligibility requirements. The majority of initial claims are denied, often due to mistakes in the application or because the medical records were not sufficiently clear. Though you can always submit a disability appeal, your likelihood of receiving benefits increases when you are represented by a highly-skilled social security disability lawyer to represent you in the appeals process.
Attorney Angel Torres, of the law offices of Nikolaus & Hohenadel, provides first-class representation to disabled individuals throughout Central Pennsylvania. He has extensive experience handling disability appeals and a proven history of helping his clients obtain the benefits they deserve. If your disability benefits claim has been denied, you likely have concerns about your health and financial situation. Our disability attorney will offer you knowledge and compassion and help you navigate the disability appeals process.
Do I qualify for disability benefits?
To be eligible for disability benefits, your medical condition must prevent you from performing any substantial gainful activity, as the term is defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Although SSA maintains a listing of qualifying medical conditions, you may still be eligible for benefits even if your condition is not on that list, so long as the correct medical evidence is presented.
Nearly Two-Thirds of Initial Disability Benefit Claims Are Denied
Disability benefits are typically denied for a number of reasons. First, a disability claim involves a lot of paperwork, which includes detailed medical records and reports provided by your doctor. If there are mistakes in the application or information is missing, it could lead to the claim being denied.
In addition, to be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have paid into the Social Security system through income tax deductions and also have acquired enough work credits, otherwise you will not be eligible for those benefits, though you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) if you meet other requirements. Finally, if a disability examiner determines that your condition does not sufficiently restrict your ability to work, or if the medical evidence does not support your claim, the application will be denied.
If your application is denied, the rules require that you receive a letter informing you about the reasons for the denial, as well as your right to file an appeal. Because the disability appeals process can be lengthy and complicated, it is crucial to work with an experienced Social Security Disability and SSI lawyer.
Disability Benefits Appeals in Pennsylvania
There are a number of steps in the disability appeals process, that must be followed in order: the Reconsideration stage, the Hearing stage, and finally, a legal suit in federal court.
The first level of appeal from a denial consists of filing a Request for Reconsideration, which must be submitted within 60 days of receiving the denial notice. At this stage, your claim will be reviewed by a disability examiner and possibly a medical consultant who were not involved in the initial decision. It is important to note that the majority of reconsideration claims are denied. Generally, claims are only approved at this level if there has been a new diagnosis, your conditions have worsened or if you or your representative are able to find an obvious error in the reasons for the initial denial.
If the decision on your Request for Reconsideration results in a denial of benefits, the second potential step of the appeals process is to request a disability hearing. This must be done within 60 days of the reconsideration denial. You should know that a disability hearing is not a formal court proceeding. Instead, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will conduct the hearing from a hearing room at the local Social Security field office, either in person or via video teleconference. The ALJ is a judge tasked with making a decision about your appeal.
During the hearing, the ALJ may ask questions about your medical condition and employment history. The ALJ may also inquire about the limitations your disability imposes on your ability to work and your daily activities. Your disability lawyer will also have a chance to speak and/or ask you specific questions about these issues for the judge to hear. Often at hearings, there will be a Vocational Expert present to testify about the nature of your past work or the type of work a person with your limitations may or may not be able to perform.
The judge will likely not make a determination at the time of the hearing. Typically speaking a written decision by the ALJ is mailed anywhere from 60 to 120 days of the hearing date (it could be more or less time).
If the judge denies your appeal, the next step is to request a review by the SSA Appeals Council, which can overturn the decision, send it back to the judge for reconsideration or affirm the ALJ’s decision. If the Appeals Council denies your claim, you have a right to file a lawsuit in federal court in order to have the ALJ’s decision overturned.
Contact Our Lancaster Disability Appeals Attorney
At Nikolaus & Hohenadel, we are committed to protecting the rights of disabled individuals and their loved ones. If your disability claim has been denied, you need the informed representation we provide. Our disability lawyers know the ins and outs of disability appeals and will help you navigate the process. When you work with our winning legal team, you greatly increase the odds of having your disability benefits claim approved.
We understand that becoming disabled is life-altering. When your physical, emotional and financial well-being are at stake, we will stand by you and fight for your rights. We handle all disability benefits cases on a contingency basis, which means we will not charge any attorneys fees until we obtain benefits for you. If you have questions about obtaining disability benefits or filing an appeal, please contact our office for a free evaluation of your case.
Law firm of Nikolaus & Hohenadel serves clients throughout Central Pennsylvania, including Lancaster, York, Lebanon, and Dauphin counties and the cities of Lewistown, Harrisburg, Carlisle, and Chambersburg. Se habla Español.