Appeal your SSD denial

If you are denied, you have 60 days, plus five days for mailing to appeal. Please note holiday and weekend days are counted in that 60 days and don’t forget that some months have 31 days. In some areas of the country a Request for Reconsideration, form SSA 561. is required. Other areas currently skip this step altogether, although there have been rumors that it may be reinstated everywhere, and a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge, form HA-501-U5, is completed.

In the following weeks, you can expect to get a letter explaining a little about the hearing process. A confusing part in this letter seems to be the explanation that Social Security will let you know 20 days in advance of a scheduled hearing; I frequently get calls from claimant’s who believe that there hearing will be in 20 days. The time it takes to get your hearing date depends on Social Security’s backlog. On June 20, 2011 Social Security issued a press release reporting that in May 2011 the average processing time for a hearing decision was less than 354 days, while in August 2008 the averaged wait time peaked at 532 days. (Note: they also reported 130,000 more hearing requests in 2010 than in 2008.)

You finally get your hearing date! Maybe someone has filled you in on what will happen at a hearing, what to wear, what to bring, etc. You believe that you see the light at the end of this tunnel and you will at least have a definitive answer. No. Few Judges will give you an answer the day of your hearing. You again, do what Social Security seems to be best at doing – making you wait. Again, the times vary but usually within a few weeks you get your decision. Of course, you want it to be favorable, and if it is you will likely get some money within the next two months, possibly within weeks.

*The Social Security Administration is working toward the elimination of their sending out paper checks. In the future, those that do not have a bank account for direct deposit will be issued a debit card.

You will receive your back due benefits, that is, the benefits that you should have been collecting monthly during the time that you waited for a decision. Be aware that you will not receive benefits for the first five months of disability regardless of your condition, if this claim is for SSD. If you did not file for benefits immediately after you stopped work, you can collect up to a full year’s worth of benefits before application. This means you can be out of work due to total disability for up to almost a year and a half before you start losing money. SSI is based on the date of application, so you will want to file immediately if you are entitled to SSI.

You may be asking, “But, what if I lose?” The next level in this process would be a written appeal to the Appeals Council. This is a request that the decision be reviewed because you believe that the Judge made an error. Keeping in mind that if the Judge’s opinion of disability does not coincide with yours, he may have applied all the correct standards and your decision will be upheld. Appeals Council may also reverse the decision, or remand it back for another hearing. You do not appear before the Appeals Council. Of note the vast majority of Appeals Council decisions uphold the Administrative Law Judge’s decision. There are additional levels of appeals that get progressively more and more complex and begin to require filing fees.