Insight from Tom Nash
Hear it from me: Don’t give up. Let me explain why, and what you should do instead.
As every American who has ever worked knows, taxes are taken out of each paycheck. Part of those taxes pay for Social Security benefits, including disability insurance. The way the system is supposed to work is that if you have a disability which prevents you from working, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is there for you as a financial “safety net.”
For individuals with disabilities who have never been able to work or who have worked but haven’t earned enough recent work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is supposed to be a lifeline for them.
Unfortunately, the system does not always work the way it should. Every year, many American workers apply for disability benefits and are denied. In Illinois, the initial denial rate is a disheartening 70%.
If your initial application is turned down, you can appeal the denial. The first appeal level is called reconsideration, where the Disability Determination Service will do another review of your claim by someone who did not take part in the first decision. The Social Security Administration will look at all the evidence submitted when the original decision was made, plus any new evidence. Your chances of being approved at the reconsideration level, unfortunately, are even lower than on the initial application.
If you are among those whose disability claim is denied twice—at the initial application stage and after reconsideration—what should you do?
First, let me tell you the two things you shouldn’t do: Do not give up and do not file a new application. Statistics demonstrate that the best chance of winning benefits is after appealing the second denial, and after a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
Persevering will significantly increase your opportunity to get the benefits you have rightfully earned and that you and your family need. Every day in our work representing our clients, we see the value of “staying the course.” For more on how perseverance can pay off, read this blog article with stories about people who persisted in their disability claims and won.
We are often asked if a client should start over after being denied twice. This is generally a bad idea.
Starting over usually means losing out on benefits for the time you’ve already waited. In addition, filing again does not increase your chances of approval. In fact, it is likely that you will be turned down again and you will still have to endure the appeals process. This will further delay the opportunity for you and your attorney to make the case for why you deserve benefits.
Instead, after being denied twice, you have the right to request an appeal hearing. If Social Security has turned down your application for benefits twice, my emphatic advice is to request that hearing.
The hearing will be conducted by an ALJ who had no part in the original decision or the reconsideration of your case. This is the best opportunity to present your case because you get to tell your story. If we represent you, we will prepare you for the hearing, and we will be with you and argue your case.
Again demonstrating how perseverance pays off, recently our firm handled a case where the client—represented by another law firm—had been denied benefits. We filed an appeal and unlike the previous attorney, we worked with the client to get their doctor to complete a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) form explaining their limitations.
With our representation and perseverance, our client won his case before the ALJ.
Seeking help from a law firm that exclusively practices disability law is in your best interests.
Statistics from the Government Accounting Office show that if you have a representative such as an attorney at your hearing, you are three times more likely to be allowed benefits than someone who had no representation at all.
Sometimes people are reluctant to hire a lawyer because they are concerned about the cost, but because we work on a contingency basis, we only get paid if we win your case.