The process to get Social Security Disability benefits can seem daunting. Let’s break it down step by step:


Stage #1: Initial Application

When your first apply for disability benefits, you complete an Initial Application. This can be filed at your local Social Security office, over the phone or online. Rarely, your application will be approved at the Initial stage. More likely, your application will be denied, and three options remain: do nothing, file a new Initial claim, or file a Request for Reconsideration.

Stage #2: Request for Reconsideration

If your Initial application is denied, you have 60 days from the date of denial to file a Request for Reconsideration (Recon). At this stage, your claim is reviewed again by Social Security. If your Recon claim is approved, you will receive disability benefits. If not, three options remain: do nothing, file a new Initial claim, or file a Request for Hearing.

Stage #3: Hearing

When your Request for Reconsideration is denied, you again have 60 days from the date of your most recent denial to file a Request for Hearing. You have the greatest chance of being approved at this stage. The hearing takes place before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and claimants will receive a Notice of Hearing before the hearing date. The hearing usually takes place at your local Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). While legal representation is not required for the hearing, it is highly recommended.

Stage #4: Appeals Council

You will usually receive a decision from the ALJ within a few months after your hearing. If your claim is approved, you will receive both a Notice of Decision and a Notice of Award. If your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision before the Appeals Council. However, the Appeals Council frequently upholds the decision of the ALJ.

Stage #5: Federal Court Review

You will usually receive a decision from the Appeals Council within two years after filing. If your claim is approved, you will receive both a Notice of Decision and a Notice of Award. If your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision before the Federal Court. This is complicated process and it must be shown that the ALJ made a serious procedural error.

How Can Lewis, Lewis & Falkner Help You Get Disability Benefits?

No matter where you are in this process, an experienced attorney can help you.  Call our Tuscaloosa, Alabama office today at 205-553-5353 for your free consultation.


How long do I have to appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits?

If your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal, unless you have “good cause” for failing to do so.

“Good cause” could be found if:

  • you did not receive the denial notice
  • you had a severe illness during the time the appeal was due rendering you unable to submit an appeal
  • you have severe mental limitations so that you did not understand what you need to do
  • Social Security misled you or gave you incorrect information
  • there was a death in your family

You must make your request to accept a late appeal in writing. You will need to submit a statement explaining why you failed to file a timely appeal.

Of course, the burden is on you to prove good cause.

The later your appeal is, the harder it will usually be for you to show that you have good cause. For example, if you were hospitalized during the appeal deadline, an exception would not be made if you waited 5 months after the hospitalization. You would have to file a new claim.

It’s important to act quickly so that you can get your appeal filed on time.  Let an experienced Social Security attorney help give you the best chance of receiving approval.  Call us today at 205-553-5353 or come by our office in Tuscaloosa for your free consultation.

My claim for disability benefits was denied… what should I do?

If you suffer from a long-term or permanent disability that prevents you from being able to work, you may have to file a claim for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in order to receive monthly Social Security Disability payments.

Almost 70 percent of initial applications for disability benefits are denied by the SSA.

If your application is in that 70 percent you have three options:

  • file a new claim,
  • appeal the denial, or
  • attempt to go back to work.

What should you do?

You should probably appeal the denial of the initial application.

If you are denied on your Social Security Disability or SSI benefit claim, you should request an appeal immediately, within the 60-day deadline.

Ready to file your appeal?

Call our Tuscaloosa office at 205-553-5353 and let us help!

Many Claimants give up after a denial or will file a new claim. Both of these choices are usually mistakes. While the appeals process is longer than the re-filing process, the chances are that your new application will be denied again for similar reasons that it was denied the previous time. Pursuing an appeal allows you to continue your claim for benefits while gathering more medical evidence.

An appeal has a better chance of winning.

The next step in the disability process is the disability hearing.  Almost half of all applications are approved at this level.  During this hearing, an Administrative Law Judge will listen to your explanation of why you are unable to maintain gainful employment due to your medical conditions. Present at the hearing will be a vocational expert, who will testify as to whether you are able to perform any work. Sometimes a medical expert will be at the hearing.

Although there is no way to be certain whether your appeal will be successful, you can increase your chances by understanding and addressing the reasons for denial. For example, your appeal might have been based on lack of medical evidence. While the appeal is pending, you can visit medical professionals. This will allow documentation of the medical conditions underlying your inability to work.

You should probably hire a lawyer.

Hiring a Social Security Disability attorney can significantly increase your chances of receiving a favorable decision during the disability appeal process.

This is because disability lawyers have experience with the rules and regulations of the SSA and are able to form a theory that explains why you are disabled.

Many people decide not to hire a disability lawyer because they are unable to afford to do so. A lawyer is paid out of a portion of your disability backpay (the money you are entitled to from the date it is adjudicated your disability began to the date you were determined to be disabled). A lawyer will not receive payment unless you win.

You have enough to worry about – let an experienced lawyer handle the social security appeals process for you. Our attorneys will treat you with the respect and compassion you deserve and will work diligently to help you win your disability case. Call us today at 205-553-5353 or come visit our office in Tuscaloosa for your free consultation.