Workers generally make contributions to Social Security from every paycheck. Most people will eventually use those contributions when they retire. Social Security retirement benefits can be an important supplement to an individual’s savings in their golden years.
A tiny subset of employed adults may eventually develop a disabling medical condition. If someone is unable to work, they could face significant financial hardship without regular income. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits provide regular funds for those not old enough to retire but unable to work due to health challenges.
SSDI benefits are only available to those who are incapable of working and who have a debilitating health condition that will last for at least 12 months. Someone denied benefits when they initially apply has the option of appealing. What does this appeals process involve?
An internal reconsideration
The first stage of an SSDI appeal requires corrections to paperwork mistakes and possibly the submission of additional medical records. Then, a different professional employed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks over the application and additional materials. They then determine whether or not someone qualifies for benefits. Reconsideration can lead to someone getting their benefits in a small percentage of cases. Other times, people must move on to the next stage of appeal.
A hearing in front of a judge
Administrative law judges have the authority to review SSDI applications and overrule the determination made by SSA employees. Someone preparing for a hearing in front of a judge may need to undergo additional medical evaluations, gather more evidence and even bring in expert witnesses. Some applicants will be able to convince a judge during a hearing that they should have qualified for benefits and that the SSA erred when denying them SSDI benefits. If a hearing is not successful, people may request a review from the Appeals Council or file an action in federal district court.
Most people coping with a disabling medical condition find it very difficult to manage the appeals process on their own. They may require legal guidance as they prepare paperwork and present their case out of hearing. Properly preparing for SSDI appeals can increase someone’s chances of getting the benefits they need while they are unable to work.