If your social security claim has been denied you should not give up or procrastinate. Many claims that are denied at first are approved later after a hearing before one of the social security administrative law judges.
After a social security denial you should seek the help of an attorney. An attorney who regularly handles social security denials will have a good idea of what you can expect with your particular claim. You should seek the help of a licensed attorney who practices in the location where your hearing will take place. Do not send your claim to an out of state law firm or provide detailed private information about yourself to anyone you cannot meet in person. You should be able to meet with a licensed attorney to discuss your case in private.
Upon receiving your social security denial letter you have 60 days to appeal the decision. Do not procrastinate. Call and find an attorney as soon as you can. In some cases the deadlines may be extended, but in many cases if you miss the deadline you have to start all over. Starting all over can cost you hard earned benefits.
At my office I file the appeals electronically with the local social security office. I ask that each client come to my office at a prearranged time for an initial appointment. I will meet with you at that appointment and go over your case. I ask that each client bring a list of their doctors along with each doctors’ address and phone number. I also ask that you bring a list your medications and who prescribes each medication and what each medication is prescribed for. I will also need to know if you have any appointments or tests scheduled and, if so, when and where.
Once all the needed information is compiled I can move forward with your appeal. I am generally able to file your appeal while you are in my office. It usually takes less than one hour. Your appeal will fall into one of four categories. The first category is called a request for reconsideration. This is the first stage of the appeal process following a social security denial. At this stage we send in an appeal and the local DDS office reconsiders your claim. The DDS office follows the same law that the Social Security office follows, but the DDS office is administered by the State of Arkansas instead of the federal government which administers Social Security. The DDS office usually sends applicants to doctor appointments to get a medical opinion regarding each applicant. You should not refuse to go to an appointment, and you should never miss an appointment. Missing appointments or refusing to go only causes delays and denials. Don’t’ panic if you are sent to a doctor who provides an inaccurate opinion of your medical condition. An inaccurate medical opinion can be overcome with good preparation of your case.
In some cases, the DDS office approves a claim, and the case is over. A favorable opinion by a DDS officer is a fortunate outcome to a Social Security disability claim. If your claim is approved by DDS you avoid a hearing before the Social Security administrative law judge. If your claim is denied by DDS, you must appeal the decision in 60 days. If the deadline is missed, you have to start all over again. If you have already hired me as your attorney, I will get notice that your claim has been denied, and because I am recognized by Social Security as your representative, I can appeal your denial by DDS. In most cases I am able to appeal your denial without you even having to come back to my office.
The second stage of the appeal process is known as the request for a hearing before the Social Security administrative law judge. This is the most crucial stage of the Social Security appeal process. Most cases are won or lost at this stage of the process. After filing your second appeal and requesting a hearing before the administrative law judge, your file returns from DDS to the federally administered Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) located at your local Social Security office. At this point, you and your attorney are responsible for preparing your case. The ODAR office in Little Rock is currently taking a year to eighteen months to hold hearings on denied claims. I call this stage the “long haul” and it can seem endless. The only good thing about the wait is the time it provides for preparing your case. During this stage of the appeal process, we will try and get one your treating doctors to provide a residual functional capacity (RFC) opinion. Each medical condition is different, and I work with treating doctors to complete RFC assessments to help the administrative law judge decide the case in your favor.
A good RFC assessment describes your ability to perform work on a sustained basis. Most RFCs describe your ability to function and seek to characterize the type of work you are capable of as sedentary, light, medium, heavy and arduous. These terms are defined in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and relate to exertional limitations.
When ODAR is ready to schedule a hearing for one of my clients they contact my office by phone and schedule a hearing time. ODAR then sends a hearing notice to both me and my client. It is most important that you remember to bring a valid picture id to your hearing. I have all clients, who can, meet at my office two hours before the scheduled hearing time. My office is a ten minute walk from the ODAR office in Little Rock. When I have hearings in other cities I meet my clients at the local ODAR office where the hearing will take place as early as possible so we can discuss the case before the hearing takes place. I think it’s important to discuss the strengths and weakness of your case prior to your hearing so you will know what to expect.
In every hearing certain information must be provided. The administrative law judge will always want to know how old you are, the extent of your education and training, your past fifteen years work experience, what health problems you have and why you cannot work. The administrative law judge will also want to know how you function on a daily basis, and what you spend most of your time doing. As all the relevant facts come to light a clear picture of your ability to work full time becomes clear. Generally at the conclusion of the hearing before the administrative law judge, I have a pretty good idea what to expect.
If you are approved by the administrative law judge your case is over and you begin receiving benefits. You will also be eligible for Medicare and/or Medicaid depending on the type of Social Security benefits you will receive.
If you are denied by the administrative law judge you must make a difficult decision. Either appeal the decision of the administrative law judge to the Appeals Council or file a new claim. The third level of appeal is to the Appeals Council in Falls Church, Virginia. Sometimes, the Appeals Council will reverse the administrative law judge and remand the case back to the local ODAR for further adjudication. A remand by the Appeals Council is a very fortunate outcome, and in my experience, quite rare. Generally, cases which are sent back by the Appeals Council are approved after another hearing at ODAR.
If you appeal to the Appeals Council and your request for further review is denied by the Appeals Council you can move forward with the fourth type of appeal. The fourth type of appeal is not really an administrative appeal but instead a lawsuit filed against the Social Security Administration. I file federal lawsuits on some cases that I have taken through each level of appeal. I do not file federal lawsuits on cases I have not already been handling.
A federal lawsuit is the last chance for approval of benefits. A simple complaint is filed in the correct venue for each case. After service of the complaint, the United States Attorney’s Office files a written answer on behalf of the Social Security Administration. After the entire record of the case is made available each party writes and files a brief. A federal judge or magistrate reads the arguments contained in each brief before making a final decision. Like all federal lawsuits, litigants may appeal following an unfavorable verdict. Appeals from the federal courts in Arkansas go to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals located in St. Louis, Missouri.
Most clients will not go through the entire endless process described above. Generally, disabled workers will find the Social Security System to fair and objective, but in each case people seeking benefits for their disability should seek legal counsel from a local licensed attorney who will meet with his or her clients in person to discuss the case. Also, people should remember not to get frustrated and give up or procrastinate because it all seems so overwhelming. Simply pick up the phone and get in touch with my office. If it appears likely I can help you, we will schedule an appointment and get to work on appealing your Social Security denial.
425 West Capitol, Ste 1586
Little Rock, AR
In the Simmons building downtown.