What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing

What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing

Was your Social Security disability claim denied? While this may cause financial hardship, it’s not the end of the world. The Social Security Administration denies many claims, and the reason often isn’t that you’re not entitled to disability coverage.

Here’s what you can expect if you have to appeal.

Who Is Eligible for Social Security Disability?

An appeal for Social Security disability depends on whether you are, in fact, eligible. Social Security disability works similarly to the more well-known Social Security retirement benefits. When your FICA taxes are withheld, you’re paying into both potential retirement and disability benefits.

The qualifications for disability are similar to retirement. You need a certain number of work credits, and your benefits may vary based on your previous income and how much you paid in taxes. The number of credits needed varies according to your age so that young workers who are disabled early in their careers are still able to take advantage of their benefits.

You also need to be medically eligible. This means that you have a serious enough disability so that you can’t perform substantial gainful work activities. If you have too much-earned income during a year, even from a lower-paying part-time job than the full-time job you can no longer perform, you may be found not medically eligible by default.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability

If you become disabled and are no longer able to work, you should apply for disability benefits as soon as possible. The typical application process takes at least six months, and most people have to file an appeal after their initial application is denied. There’s also a five-month waiting period before your disability payments start.

If there are delays in the application process, you will usually be eligible to receive back pay of your benefits. However, you may struggle to pay your bills in the meantime depending on your level of savings.

Why Most People Have to Appeal

To prevent fraud, the Social Security Administration makes the application process very difficult. You need to correctly fill out the forms, and the supporting information provided by your doctor needs to exactly match the requirements for eligibility. Just like health insurance billing, doctors may not include enough information or may not use the magic words that the Social Security Administration needs to hear to approve your application. If your application is incomplete or doesn’t have the right medical information, you haven’t proven that you’re disabled under the law.

What Happens at a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing?

A Social Security disability appeal hearing is similar to a trial that you might see on TV. There will be an administrative law judge who evaluates your case, representatives from the Social Security Administration who will explain why your claim was denied, and your own attorney who will explain either why your application should have been approved or why it should be approved in light of the information presented in the hearing.

You don’t have to have a lawyer at this hearing, but most of the hearing will be about legal technicalities and making sure the evidence meets the exact requirements of the law. If your application already got denied, it may be hard for you to figure out what you need to do to legally support your appeal. On the other hand, an experienced Social Security disability lawyer will know what medical records and doctors’ statements are needed to support your appeal.

To learn more about the Social Security disability appeals process or what you need to do to get your benefits, contact Joel Thrift Law today.