Does an injury, chronic disease, or other serious medical impairment keep you or a loved one from working in Arizona? You may be qualified for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. According to official data from the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are 9.2 million people currently receiving SSD benefits.
Unfortunately, getting benefits can be challenging. In fact, the SSA reports that “Denied disability claims have averaged 67%” in recent years. A denial is not the end of the process. You have the right to appeal. Here, our Phoenix Social Security disability lawyers provide a comprehensive overview of your rights and options if your benefits were denied in Arizona.
Step #1: Save the Denial Letter and Understand the Reasons Why Your Claim Was Denied
When you apply for Social Security disability benefits through SSDI or SSI, you will eventually receive a written letter from the SSA with information about your application. Receiving a denial letter from the SSA is a frustrating, stressful, and often confusing experience to be forced to endure. After all, you may be relying on those disability benefits to provide for your family. The first step in addressing the rejection of your Social Security disability (SSD) benefits is to review and preserve the denial letter. The Notice of Denial should provide details on the reasons why the SSA declined to approve your claim. Of course, these letters are sometimes filled with technical, vague, and industry-specific legal jargon. Get your Notice of Denial reviewed by a Phoenix attorney.
Step #2: Consult With an Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer
As noted in the introduction, the SSA denies two-thirds of initial disability claims. Getting benefits often proves to be a challenge for many people. You and your family do not have to up against the big federal agency alone. Being proactive is seeking professional legal guidance and support. By speaking with a top Phoenix Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible after receiving an SSDI denial or SSI denial, you will put yourself in the best position to get your benefits.
Among other things, an attorney with extensive experience practicing Social Security disability law can help you understand the reasons for the denial of your claim, advise you on exactly what you need to do next, and help you take action to prepare and submit your appeal. A key thing to remember is that an initial denial is not the end of the Social Security disability claim process. You have the right to file an appeal.
Step #3: Submit a Request for Reconsideration (Initial Appeal)
Your first level of appeal in a Social Security disability (SSD) claim in Arizona is known as reconsideration. As described in the official federal regulations (DI 27001.001 The Reconsideration Process), “reconsideration involves a thorough, independent review of all evidence from the initial determination and any new evidence the claimant or another individual submits.” In other words, reconsideration involves the SSA taking a second look at your application for benefits. On reconsideration, your file will be passed off to a more senior claims reviewer. You should be proactive in submitting a request for reconsideration in an SSD claim. Your first level of appeal must be submitted in writing within 60 days of the date you received the denial letter.
Step #4: Provide the SSA With Relevant Supplemental Evidence
While reconsideration involves the SSA taking a second (fresh) look at your claim, you are not limited to submitting the exact same application for a second time. You have the right to—and you should—provide supplemental supporting documentation to the SSA as part of your request for reconsideration. Indeed, during the reconsideration process, proving the SSA with additional relevant evidence, potentially including more medical records, is key.
In submitting supplemental evidence during your first level of appeal, it is useful to refer back to the denial letter that you received from the SSA. Why did the SSA state that it denied your Social Security disability benefits? If possible, you should provide additional supporting evidence directly addressing the issue. For example, if the SSA claims that you failed to provide adequate medical evidence to support the existence or severity of your disability, you should take advantage of the reconsideration process to include additional medical documents/records.
Step #5: If Necessary, Escalate Your Social Security Disability Appeal to the Next Level
Reconsideration could be enough to get your disability denial overturned. Once additional evidence is provided and your claim is reviewed by a more senior-level professional at the SSA, the agency may approve benefits. Unfortunately, that is not always what happens. You may need to bring a second appeal. If your request for reconsideration is denied, you have the right to escalate your appeal to the next level. Technically speaking, there are actually three additional levels of appeal after the reconsideration stage:
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing: If denied twice by the SSA, you have the right to an in-person hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will review the evidence in your case and make a decision on your claim. You should always be represented by an experienced Phoenix disability appeals lawyer at an ALJ hearing.
- Appeals Council Review: If the ALJ denies your claim, you can request that the SSA’s Appeals Council review the decision. The Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision and either approve it, return it for further consideration, or make its own decision. The council has discretionary authority to review. It may or may not agree to hear your appeal.
- Federal Court Review: If the Appeals Council denies your claim or it denies to hear your claim, you have the right to take the matter to federal court. While not many SSD appeals make it this far into the process, litigation is always an option to challenge a denial of benefits.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Arizona Social Security Disability Attorney Today
At The Law Office of Paul J. Dombeck, PLLC, our Arizona Social Security disability lawyers are passionate, justice-driven advocates for people who need help the most. Was your SSDI or SSI claim denied? Contact our legal team now for a free, no-obligation consultation. From our Phoenix office, we handle SSDI claims and appeals in Maricopa County and throughout Arizona.