Article Index

Understanding the system

1.  Initial application—Every claim for disability benefits begins with the initial application. 75% of all applicants are denied at this step. SSA looks for a reason to deny benefits. The decision is based on forms you completed and medical records—you won't meet with anyone involved in making the decision. It is surprising when anyone wins at this step. Don't quit—you must appeal a denial within 60 days.

2.  Reconsideration—The second step in the system, but the results are worse.  82% of all applicants are denied at this level. SSA reviews your file again and issues a denial. Unfortunately it may take months to receive. At this step, only 50% of the original applicants are still in the system, the rest gave up. Appeal the denial immediately.

Up to this point in the system you have been a Social Security number and a file.

3.  Request for Hearing before Administrative Law Judge—Congratulations! You have persevered in the system and now have a good chance to win benefits. 53% of all claimants win at this stage!

Why? Primarily because your claim is entitled to a de novo or new review by a Judge who knows the law and does not work for SSA. Also, you get to testify before the Judge about your inability to work and s/he assesses your credibility. Finally, hopefully you have obtained opinions from your doctors about your inability to work.

You must win your case at the hearing stage; if you do not, you can appeal but your claim will be tied up perhaps for years with the likelihood of success dramatically reduced.