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What to Do if Your Social Security Disability Claim is Denied

Individuals who are unable to work due to a severe and debilitating medical condition are entitled to apply for compensation from Social Security Disability Insurance. However, there are strict criteria that must be met in order to receive SSDI benefits and a large percentage of applications are denied. If you have applied for benefits and have received a denial letter, you may be able to correct the issue by filing an appeal with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Among the most common reasons for Social Security disability claim denials is when the SSA does not believe your condition will last for 12 months or does not deem it severe enough to meet the SSA’s strict definition of a disability. You may be denied benefits if you do not follow your doctor’s treatment plan. A claim can also be denied if you are continuing to engage in “substantial gainful activity.” That is, you are still earning wages at a high enough level that you are not considered disabled.

In the event the SSA denies your claim for disability benefits, you will receive a letter in the mail outlining the reasons for denial and the information that must be provided in an appeal. There are four levels of appeal. These are the steps you should take:

  • Review the denial letter — The letter should be read carefully and reviewed for errors. It’s particularly important to check the letter’s section addressing the medical sources supporting your claim to ensure it includes all of the sources you provided.
  • File your appeal — You only have 60 days from the date at the top of the denial letter to prepare and file your Appeal Request and Appeal Disability Report. The first step in the appeals process is to request reconsideration. This involves filing the same paperwork to be reviewed by a different SSA representative.
  • Prepare for your appeal hearing — If your claim isn’t approved during the reconsideration process, you may be ask to attend a hearing with an administrative law judge, who is a licensed attorney. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hearings are being conducted by your choice of telephone or video.
  • Appeal your case to the Appeals Council — If the Administrative Law Judge also rules against your claim(s), you can request review by the Appeals Council in Northern Virginia.  This can result in a remand, giving you another chance to establish your entitlement to benefits at the hearing level.

Appealing a Social Security disability claim denial is complex and often frustrating. It’s best to have an experienced attorney on your side who can evaluate your case and advise you regarding your options. Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C. assists clients with pursuing their SSDI claims at every stage. Located in Bristol, we serve clients in Kingsport and Johnson City as well as all of Upper East Tennessee and most of Southwest Virginia. Call 423-797-6022 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.