Yes, it’s possible to win a disability appeal without hiring a lawyer. The SSA also doesn’t require you to have one. But statistics prove that you are more likely to get approved if you have a lawyer. Why is that? First of all, lawyers have extensive knowledge of the legalities concerning disability claims. They know what the law says and therefore can determine what particular provisions apply to your case. Since they handle a lot of disability cases, they already know the system like the back of their hand. They know what the SSA wants to see and how to make them see it. If you’re worried about the cost, don’t. Disability lawyers only get paid when you win your case. If you get denied, you won’t have to pay anything. It’s essentially a win-win situation. But if you’re confident that you can win your case yourself, here are some tips and tricks to ace the disability appeals process.
How to Win a Disability Appeal Without a Lawyer
There are various stages of the appeals process. First is filing a written request for reconsideration. If the SSA still denies your claim, you will need to go to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. If after the hearing your claim still got denied, you can go to the Appeals Council who has the final say.
Filing for Reconsideration
When filing for reconsideration, the first thing you need to do is make sure you file your request promptly. The SSA only gives you 60 days to file a request for reconsideration. If you fail to do so, you will have to start the application process all over again. Another thing you need to secure is relevant medical evidence to support your claim. The SSA will usually do this for you but you can’t rely on them to have complete records. With the huge number of claims they’re processing, it’s easy to lose your records. Among the evidence you need to get are medical records and doctor’s opinions. Take note that you only need to get “relevant” ones. Meaning, only those that can help prove your disability. If your claim is based on a shoulder injury, you don’t have to submit dental or gynecology records. The same also applies to the doctor’s opinion. Only submit those that came from the doctor/s who are treating your disability. Some states allow doctors to collect fees for the release of medical records while others don’t. But this usually doesn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars all in all. Most of the time, however, identifying the necessary medical evidence isn’t always clear cut. If you’re submitting the same medical evidence you did during your initial application, then it’s no use. There’s a big chance that the SSA has already evaluated it and found it lacking. This is why you need to understand why your case got denied. If it’s because you failed to prove your disability, you need to make sure that the new evidence you’ve submitted will prove it without a doubt.
Requesting for Hearing
Like the request for reconsideration, you only have 60 days to request a hearing with the ALJ. You can submit the request online or print the forms (Form SSA-3441, Form SSA-827, Form HA-501) and bring it to the SSA office nearest you. They also accept applications by phone. Just contact your local SSA office.
Preparing for Hearing
Most denied disability claims get approved during the ALJ hearing. That’s why you need to prepare yourself for it physically and mentally. Research possible questions you might be asked as well as the questions you need to ask. If you have a lawyer, they can help you with this. They are already familiar with the hearing procedures and know what questions might be asked.
Representing Yourself at the Hearing
If you don’t have legal representation at the hearing, the judge won’t expect you to act like an attorney. They will walk you through the process. You also won’t be expected to know medical terms like a doctor. Instead, the questions will largely focus on your personal experience and how your disability affects your capacity to do things. Most hearings will also have a “vocational expert”. They are people who review your records and recommend jobs that you can still do. They’ll show this list of jobs at the hearing but you’ll also be given an opportunity to ask them questions and prove them wrong.
After the Hearing
If you feel like there are questions you haven’t fully answered during the hearing, you can ask permission from the judge to explain it in writing. You will be notified of the ALJ’s decision within a few months after the hearing. If your claim is denied, you can take your case before the Appeals Council. Unfortunately, the council usually upholds the decision of the ALJ. If this happens, you need to start your application all over again. And it would be wiser to get yourself a disability lawyer this time around.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.