If your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is rejected the first time you apply for those benefits, you’re not alone. Most requests for SSD benefits are initially denied, but you can appeal that decision with help from a San Diego Social Security disability attorney.

While first-time applications are usually rejected by the Social Security Administration (SSA), many appeals are successful. Applicants should understand that the application process for obtaining Social Security Disability benefits is not a sprint; it can be a quite lengthy marathon.

Who is qualified to receive Social Security Disability benefits? How do you apply for Social Security Disability benefits? If your application for disability benefits is denied, how do you appeal that decision? How long does the process take?

If you’ll keep reading, you will find some answers, but if you’re disabled in Southern California, and if you are seeking disability benefits, you must have the personalized legal advice and professional legal services that a San Diego Social Security disability lawyer will provide.

Who is Eligible for SSD Benefits?

Social Security Disability benefits are sent each month to workers who are disabled before retirement age. Eligible applicants have paid FICA (Social Security) taxes, and they are dealing with at least one of the conditions that the Social Security Administration defines as a disability.

SSD benefits are provided only to workers with a “severe, long-term, total” disability. Your age is another consideration in determining if you’re qualified for Social Security Disability benefits.

You should contact a California disability lawyer for advice and guidance – even before you apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

How Will an Attorney Help You?

A San Diego Social Security disability attorney can assist you with your request for benefits, to make sure that your paperwork is complete and accurate and that no misunderstandings or mistakes – on your end, at least – cause a denial or delay of your benefit payments.

If you don’t contact a California disability lawyer before you apply for SSD benefits, you are going to need a lawyer’s help if your request for benefits, like most initial benefit applications, is denied. Your lawyer will appeal the denial on your behalf.

You have the right to appeal any decision that the Social Security Administration makes regarding your application for benefits. You have sixty days to file an appeal if you receive a denial of your first application.

How Are Appeals Handled?

If your first application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, contact a San Diego Social Security disability lawyer who will help you prepare for an appeal hearing. A hearing is a review of your claim by an administrative law judge who did not take part in the first decision.

Currently, more than 1,500 administrative law judges consider more than half a million appeals every year. When you are given a hearing date, your lawyer will explain the procedure at the hearing and what will be expected. Listed below are some basic suggestions for the hearing:

  1.  Dress properly. Do not dress too formally, but you cannot appear casual. Your appearance should suggest humility, modesty, and honesty. Your lawyer may have additional suggestions about your appearance.
  2.  Be prompt. Unless your lawyer tells you differently, you should arrive for the hearing approximately a half-hour early. That gives you time to park, locate the hearing room, and meet briefly with your lawyer prior to the start of the hearing.
  3.  Keep your case confidential. Do not speak to anyone about the case except your lawyer. Do not post anything about it online. If someone with ties to the SSA finds something you have posted online, your words could be misunderstood and used against you.
  4.  Do not bring beverages or food into the hearing room, and turn your phone off before entering.

If you will have to travel more than seventy-five miles to appear at an appeal hearing, in some cases, the Social Security Administration may pay for your travel expenses, provided that you contact the hearing office as early as possible before the hearing.

What Happens at an Appeal Hearing?

At the appeal hearing, an administrative law judge explains the issues in your case and may question you and any witnesses you bring. The judge may also ask other witnesses – such as a medical or vocational expert – to attend the hearing and testify.

You and any other witnesses will answer questions under oath or affirmation. The SSA will make a recording of the hearing, and your attorney will be allowed to interrogate witnesses.

After the hearing, the administrative law judge will issue a decision in writing, and the SSA will mail you a copy of the decision.

What if Your Appeal Does Not Succeed?

If the administrative law judge denies your Social Security Disability benefits, you have sixty days to request a review by Social Security’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council may:

  1.  deny your request if it determines that the judge at your hearing ruled properly
  2.  approve your request for Social Security Disability benefits
  3.  return your case to an administrative law judge for additional consideration

If the Appeals Council denies your request for a review, you and your attorney may bring a civil claim in a federal district court. That is the final level of the appeals process.

How Long Can the Process Take?

If you are disabled, and if you are not able to work because of your disability, having a California disability lawyer advocate on your behalf considerably increases the likelihood that you’ll be approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

Your attorney will protect your rights and work aggressively to acquire for you the Social Security Disability benefits you need and deserve. However, it will take time.

If there is an appeal hearing and a subsequent review by the Appeals Council, the entire process will probably take longer than a year. You will have to fill out abundant paperwork, and you will also have to appear at one or more appeal hearings.

If you’re unable to work due to a disability, it is likely that you are entitled to SSD benefits. By calling today, you can schedule a first consultation with an attorney who will help you identify the benefits you are entitled to and help you receive those benefits.