Tips to Win Social Security Disability at Appeal

If your application for Social Security disability was denied, you still have a good chance of being approved for benefits through the appeals process. Here are some important things to be mindful of.

There is no surefire way to win a Social Security disability claim, but there are things you can do to help your chances. First, read up on how the appeals process works.

Request Appeal on Time

After every decision, you have only 60 days to submit your appeal in writing. If you wait more than 60 days to request an appeal, your appeal will probably be dismissed. At the first three levels of appeal (reconsideration, ALJ hearing, and Appeals Council review), you must file your appeal by submitting specific forms. You can find these forms on the SSA website or by stopping in to your local Social Security office.

Write an Appeals Letter

The Social Security forms for appealing a decision give you only a few lines to write your explanation on why you think the decision was wrong, but you should feel free to write the phrase "see attached page" on the form and submit a letter along with the form that carefully outlines the problems you see with the decision.

The denial letter you received from the SSA that denied your eligibility for benefits will include an "explanation of determination," which is sometimes called the "disability determination rationale."

This explanation of determination will include issues such as what sources the SSA used to evaluate your claim, why the SSA denied your claim, what impairments the SSA evaluated, and a description of your medical condition. If anything is incorrect or missing in your explanation of determination, include this in your letter to the SSA. Also submit any statements, records, or other information that makes your claim stronger.

For more on appeals letters, see How to Write a Successful Disability Appeal Letter, on Nolo.com.

Get a Supportive Opinion From Your Doctor

You should ask your doctor for a supportive statement detailing what you can and cannot do and how your condition prevents you from working. These types of statements may have little effect on a Social Security disability or SSI disability claim at the initial claim or first appeal level, but at the disability hearing level, such statements can actually win the case, provided they are strong enough and are backed up by the objective medical evidence contained in the same doctor's office notes. If your doctor supports you and is willing to fill out an eight-page form for you, it's best if your doctor fill outs the SSA's RFC assessment form. Call your Social Security office and ask them for the form.

If your doctor is not as helpful as you'd like, see Filing for Disability Without a Doctor's Support or Approval.

Be Completely Honest

You should be completely honest at any level of appeal when giving information about your impairments and the limitations your impairments cause. For example, some people may be embarrassed to disclose their psychiatric problems, but those impairments need to be considered as well, as they may have an effect on your disability determination. While you also should not be melodramatic and exaggerate your issues, do not be ashamed to admit the difficulties your impairments have caused you.

Consider Getting Representation

The disability appeals process can be a complicated and confusing maze. You have the right to hire someone -- either a disability lawyer or a nonlawyer representative -- to help you with your claim and appeal, and it is common for people to do that. While you can certainly win a disability appeals case on your own if you have a strong medical case, people are more likely to be successful with their claim if they have an expert representing them through this process.

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