The government will make an SSDI claim as hard as it can for you, regardless of your legal rights under the law. Between unreasonable denials and delays in the process, you may be forced to fight for your benefits.
Here is what you need to know about what happens in your case and what you can do to speed up the process. If you have any further questions about SSDI appeals or your SSDI benefits in Arkansas, contact the attorneys at Denton & Zachary today.
The SSA Often Denies Initial Claims for Benefits
On average, it can take SSA about six months to respond to your initial claim. If you are like many people who have applied for SSDI benefits, you may be shocked when you receive the letter telling you that your claim has been denied.
Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration makes things hard on claimants, and they will deny a large percentage of initial claims. The good news is that you have the legal right to appeal the SSDI denial, and you have a robust legal process with multiple levels of appeal available to you.
Requesting for Reconsideration
The first step in appealing your denial is your request for a reconsideration of the decision. SSA will assign your request to a different reviewer than the one who denied your claim. The agency has a division that specifically deals with reconsideration requests.
You have 60 days from the time of denial to request reconsideration. The reviewer may want additional information from you to help them make their decision. According to the SSA, the request can be decided in as little as four weeks. The reviewer may take longer with your case, especially if they need to assess more information.
When you file for reconsideration, you actually have a chance of winning, unlike when you appeal a long-term disability denial to an insurance company. Although the numbers are not high, the SSA will grant around 15 percent of the requests for reconsideration that it entertains.
Requesting a Disability Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge
If you are unsuccessful at the reconsideration phase, you can take your case to the next step, which is requesting a disability hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This hearing takes your case to a new phase, where it is out of the hands of the SSA. They are the adversarial party, trying to defend their decision to deny your benefits while your lawyer makes a case for you. An ALJ will review the evidence and decide the case.
You have 60 days after your request for reconsideration is denied to request your hearing in front of the ALJ. Unfortunately, there are far too few ALJs for the caseload, and you may need to wait many months for your hearing. Each judge must resolve hundreds of cases each year with a written decision, and there are hundreds of thousands of appeals.
On average, it is just under one year until your actual hearing in front of an ALJ. At the maximum, you can wait up to two years.
How You Can Speed Up the Disability Hearing Process
In the meantime, there are several things that you can do to potentially speed up the process, including:
- Contacting an attorney to work with you to minimize delays on your end
- Immediately requesting a hearing after the request for reconsideration has been denied
- Promptly responding to any communications from the judge and requests for information
- Waiving your right to receive notice of the hearing
Going to the Appeals Council
If the ALJ does not rule in your favor, you still have legal options. You can then take your case to the Appeals Council, which will review your case to see if the judge made an error of law. They will not review the evidence again. The Appeals Council does not accept every case, and it can take close to a year to hear back whether they have accepted your case and what their decision is.
Taking Your SSDI Case to Federal Court
Your last level of review is in the federal court system if the Appeals Council will not accept your case, or if they rule against you. Only then can you take the case outside the SSA. You must go through all the prior steps first. By this point, many claimants have either had a successful resolution or have given up the struggle.
If the facts and law are in your favor, there is no reason why you should not pursue all avenues of appeal. Our determined SSDI lawyers will take your case as far as it can go, fighting for your legal rights every step of the way. All told, the process can take several years to complete.
Contact an Arkansas Social Security Disability Attorney Today
The attorneys at Denton & Zachary know how to battle with the SSA on behalf of our clients. We are not afraid of any large company or the federal government. Instead, we roll up our sleeves and go to work for you for as long as it takes. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers in Little Rock or Conway, AR. To speak with an attorney, you can send us a message online or call us today at 501-273-1695.
SSDI Appeal FAQs
Do I get back benefits if I win my case?
Yes. If you are legally entitled to benefits, they will be backdated to when you filed your claim, and you will be paid retroactively.
Do I need an SSDI lawyer?
Although it is not a legal requirement, it is very difficult to take on a powerful government agency like SSA on your own without an experienced attorney.