Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be an arduous process due to the numerous administrative hoops applicants must jump through before they obtain benefits. According to 2018 data from the Social Security Administration (the most recent available), only 45.5% of claims were allowed at the initial decision stage. However, at the hearing level and above, that percentage rises to 56.1%. Thus, the question for applicants becomes: Is appealing a denied disability claim worth jumping through the extra administrative hoops? A Baltimore disability attorney explains some of the pros and cons below.
A Review of the Appeals Process
First, a review of the Social Security disability appeals process. Once a claimant’s initial application is denied, they may then request reconsideration. If their request for reconsideration is denied, they may then request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). If their claim is again denied by the ALJ, they may request a review by the Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council rejects the appeal, the claimant may then file a lawsuit in federal court — the last phase of the appeals process.
Pros of Appealing a Denied Social Security Disability Claim
The most obvious advantage of taking your denied disability claim past the reconsideration stage is that doing so increases your chances of receiving benefits by about 10.6 percentage points. While that may not seem like much, it is actually a 23.3% increase — meaning you can increase your chances of approval by almost a quarter by proceeding to the hearing stage and above. You may also be able to present new evidence to the Appeals Council if you take your appeal that far. In most circumstances, the Appeals Council will not consider any new evidence; it limits its review to the evidence presented to the ALJ. However, it will consider new evidence if the evidence relates to the period on or before the date of the ALJ’s decision and there is a reasonable probability that the additional evidence would change the outcome of the decision. And by taking your case to the Appeals Council level, you preserve your right to file a lawsuit against the SSA in a federal district court.
Cons of Appealing a Denied Social Security Disability Claim
One very major downside of an appeal is that it is very time-consuming. For example, it takes the Appeals Council in the Baltimore SSA office an average of 333 days to reach a final decision. And once the Appeals Council reaches a decision, it likely will not overturn the ALJ’s ruling. In most cases, the Appeals Council merely sends a claimant’s file back to the ALJ for further consideration. By appealing your initial denial to the Appeals Council, you also forfeit your right to file a new application for benefits until the Appeals Council reaches its final decision. This can result in a serious setback if your appeal is denied, as it may have been more advantageous to start from scratch.
Contact a Baltimore Disability Attorney to Discuss Your Situation
The decision of whether to appeal a denied Social Security disability claim is intensely fact-specific and depends upon the particulars of your case. To discuss further, please contact Baltimore disability attorney Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.