Getting denied disability benefits can be frustrating. But if the Social Security Administration (SSA) tells you no, it doesn’t have to stay that way. The SSA gives you 60 days to appeal after each denial letter arrives in the mail. However, the first step in appealing your denied claim depends on which state you live in. In about 10 states (and Guam), your appeal starts with requesting an ALJ hearing. Everywhere else, your appeal starts with a disability reconsideration request.
Disability Reconsideration Timeline and Evidence Requirements
According to the SSA, you have 60 days to submit a reconsideration request. If you miss that deadline, you’ll have to apply for benefits all over again. For that reason, we suggest filing your appeal as soon as possible. Be aware, though, that the same rules for initial SSD claims also apply to disability reconsideration requests. Unless your first application left out vital information, the SSA will likely deny your reconsideration request, too.
Be sure to include any new evidence along with your reconsideration request, such as:
- Doctor’s visits to treat your condition
- New treatments or prescriptions from your doctor, including how often and what dosage you’re taking
- Other symptoms that limit your ability to work (most people getting benefits have 2-3 conditions, on average)
Three Ways to File Your Disability Reconsideration Request
Filing your disability reconsideration request through the SSA’s website is one easy way to start your appeal. If you’d rather talk to someone at the SSA first, visit your local field office. To request a disability reconsideration in person, enter your ZIP code to find your nearest SSA office here. Sick of fighting the SSA to get back the money you already paid into Social Security? Having a lawyer appeal is the best way to get the most money the SSA owes you paid faster.
All three options are free, but just one involves a lawyer fighting the federal government for money that’s rightfully yours. You’ll never pay for professional help appealing your denied SSD claim unless that lawyer helps you win benefits. If your disability reconsideration request gets approved, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee deducted from your lump-sum back pay.
What Happens After You File a Disability Reconsideration Request?
After you file a request for disability reconsideration, it goes to your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. The same office that reviewed your initial application also handles your reconsideration request. But this time, you’re guaranteed a different examiner. So, the person who denied your first claim won’t look at your appeal. Instead, a disability reconsideration triggers a completely new review. This means a different medical consultant and DDS examiner see your claim through fresh eyes.
How Long Does Disability Reconsideration Usually Take?
Disability reconsideration requests take 77.1 days to complete, on average. That’s nearly a week faster than your first review usually takes! And considering how much DDS has to process, it’s actually pretty quick. Getting medical records, scheduling exams and analyzing the evidence takes time. They also look at medical opinions, review symptoms, and determine how much they limit your ability to work.
How Many People Get Benefits During This Stage?
How many people usually get approved at this stage? It changes every year, but reconsideration requests averaged a 2% approval rate from 2006-2018. In 2018, about 41,466 claimants won SSD benefits at the disability reconsideration stage. Of course, you can appeal again within 60 days if you’re denied. At the ALJ hearing level, judges grant SSD benefits to 9% of applicants each year, on average. If that worries you, look at how many people that number actually represents. The SSA processed over two million SSD claims in 2018, so that 9% equals 186,597 people approved for benefits.
How Long Do You Have to Request an ALJ Hearing?
You have 60 days after denial to request your ALJ hearing. You’ll make your case to an administrative law judge (ALJ) when you appear in court. Don’t wait long to request a hearing, or you’ll have to apply for benefits again from scratch.
An ALJ is an attorney who works for the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The ALJ’s job is to review past decisions on appealed claims. Generally, about 42% of claims get approved at ALJ hearings nationwide. However, a lawyer can greatly improve your odds. About 4 in every 5 claimants awarded SSD benefits at their hearings have a lawyer handling their case. You won’t pay the lawyer anything now, and it’s worth having a professional fight for you in court.
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Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.