Your Social Security benefits play an important role in your retirement, and for those applying for disability benefits under Social Security (SSDI), the stakes can be even higher. A denial of benefits can have devastating effects on your ability to live comfortably. Fortunately, if your Social Security benefits are denied for medical reasons, there is an appeals process that you can follow to try to get your benefits restored.
The process is now available online for your further convenience — a great relief for those who have trouble getting to the local Social Security Administration (SSA) office for reasons of time or disability. Thanks to the online access, you can appeal your benefits conveniently even if you currently live outside of the United States.
The online portal allows you to initiate an appeal or pause the process and continue an appeal that you had already started. This secure portal guides you through all of the process steps and allows you to update any supplementary information that is needed to re-evaluate your case. Such information includes:
- Information regarding medical treatment you have received since the previous submittal of information to the SSA, including all medical treatments and tests along with the doctors and hospitals involved in your care.
- Subsequent changes in your medical conditions and all of your daily activities.
- An update on all medicines that you are currently taking.
Submitting your information online can help to expedite the appeals process.
Be sure to act quickly, as you generally have sixty days to request an appeal (measured from the time you receive the SSA letter). In some cases, you may be able to receive payments during the appeals process if you ask for an appeal within ten days of the denial — but you run the risk of having to pay back those funds should you lose the appeal.
There are generally four levels of appeal: reconsideration, a hearing, an Appeals Council, and Federal Court. In some states, the reconsideration step is passed up and your case goes straight to a hearing.
In reconsideration, your claim is given a complete review by an examiner and a medical consultant that were not involved in the original decision. The personnel involved in your original evaluation are not allowed to decide your reconsideration claim. According to Nolo.com, approximately 5-10% of reconsiderations are granted.
The next step is a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who was not involved in either the original decision or the reconsideration. Hearings are generally held within a 75-mile radius of your home.
If you disagree with the ALJ's finding, you may take your case to the Social Security Appeals Council, but your final recourse is to file suit in Federal Court. See SSA publication EN—05-10041, "The Appeals Process," for more details on the appeal options.
You are welcome to submit your own appeal, or have a legal representative do it for you. For further advice on representation, see SSA Publication EN-05-10075, "Your Right To Representation". In either case, the online portal provides another layer of convenience.
If you believe your benefits have been unjustly denied, don't hesitate to appeal. The online portal makes it easier to do so, but whether you are more comfortable with the online approach or prefer a face-to-face meeting, be sure to have all the information you need to make your case and bring representation if you feel that it is necessary. Fight for what is rightfully yours.
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