Frequently Asked Questions
- I was denied Social Security Disability Benefits…now what?
- My Request for Reconsideration was also denied, what should I do?
- What happens at my hearing?
- How much will an attorney charge me?
If you are denied Social Security Disability benefits for any reason, it is important to take action immediately. You may file a Request for Reconsideration yourself but we recommend that you contact our office upon receipt of the letter notifying you of Social Security’s initial determination. In most cases you have only 60 days to appeal the initial determination. If you do not appeal in time then you may re-apply for Social Security Disability but you may miss out on additional back-payments as described in the previous section. You will also have to wait while Social Security makes a determination on the new application before you can move forward in the appeals process.
Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits is typically a lengthy process and we recommend that you promptly take action at each step in order to receive your benefits as soon as possible. Our office will need the initial determination letter as soon as possible in order to promptly appeal your claim.
Do not worry, the national average for cases being denied at this stage is typically between 85 – 87 percent. It is important to file the next appeal as soon as possible, because like the prior stage, you only have 60 days to do so. You now have to file a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. After the request is filed, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review will begin processing your file and will eventually schedule your hearing.
If you have an attorney, this is the stage that the attorney can provide the most assistance. For instance, our office will file the request for hearing (so you never have to worry about missing the deadline), assist in filling out and filing some of the many forms requested by Social Security, we can help obtaining any missing medical records, and answer any questions that you have along the way.
If you have not yet contacted an attorney by this stage, we highly recommend that you do so. There are numerous forms that Social Security will request of you. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the Judge is able to review your complete medical history. It can be advantageous to have someone experienced with the process assisting you.
While every case is different, the hearing is always your opportunity to tell the Judge your story. It is your last and best chance to win your case. It is important to show them how your disabilities affect your everyday life and limit your ability to maintain employment.
The preparation of exhibits, review of medical records, and preparation of your testimony is critical at this stage. These are all areas in which an attorney can assist you. Prior to any hearing, our office prepares a pre-hearing memorandum for the Administrative Law Judge who will be deciding your case. This memorandum serves two purposes: it requests the Judge to make a favorable decision based on the medical records (sometimes preventing a need for the hearing) and it explains some of the issues and main arguments to the Judge helping the hearing proceed more efficiently.
Participants in a hearing include the Judge, the Claimant (yourself), your attorney, a court reporter, and often a vocational expert and doctor. Hearings typically begin with your testimony. Once that is complete, the doctor will testify as to what listings he or she believes you meet and what your functional limitations are. If you meet a listing, you may automatically be approved for Social Security Disability benefits. If not, your restrictions are discussed with the vocational expert who gives his or her opinion on what jobs are available in the economy for someone with your restrictions and limitations. Your attorney is afforded the opportunity of asking questions of every witness during the hearing. Do you think that a claimant is professionally qualified to cross-examine a medical doctor or a vocational expert?
Once the hearing is complete, the Judge will issue a written opinion that will be mailed to yourself and your attorney.
Attorneys are paid on a contingent basis, meaning they are paid a fee as a percentage (usually 25%) of your back-payment, up to a maximum of $6,000.00 (attorney fees are limited by Social Security and occasionally change). Therefore, if you do not win your case, there is no fee. Additionally, expenses such as copying of medical records are usually advanced by your attorney so that no money has to be paid out of your pocket.