Ever since you started your first job as a 16-year-old, you have paid into the Social Security program. Payroll withholdings cover your income tax requirements and help you build credits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). For a very small subset of employed adults, medical issues will prevent them from retiring the way that they planned.
If you developed a severe medical condition that has forced you to leave your employment, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Applicants with conditions ranging from visual impairment to mental health conditions can potentially rely on SSDI payments.
Even qualified applicants who truly cannot work receive rejection letters from the SSA. Thankfully, a rejection notice does not mean the end of your claim.
You have the right to file an appeal
The SSA has to review such a massive volume of applications that some mistakes in the process are inevitable. Unfortunately, it seems like workers err on the side of caution by rejecting even qualified applicants initially instead of risking a decision approving someone who does not deserve benefits.
If you receive a rejection notice, you have the right to appeal. The SSDI appeals process occurs in stages. The first stage is a reconsideration. You have the right to submit more documentation, and then a worker at the SSA will look over your paperwork to see if the first employee made a mistake.
If that is not successful, then you can request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Such a hearing will often involve your own legal representation and either new medical evidence or possibly the testimony of expert witnesses. Occasionally, people will need to pursue additional appeals after a hearing, and there are two more advanced stages of appeals available in those situations.
Why appealing is better than reapplying
Maybe you didn’t send in enough evidence or made some mistakes on your paperwork initially, you might think that reapplying would be faster than trying to fight and appeal, but you could lose thousands in benefits if you reapply instead of appealing.
If your appeal is eventually successful, you can receive backdated benefits that start when you first qualified for SSDI after applying. That could mean months or more than a year of benefits all paid at once after your approval, which can help you catch up on your past-due bills and other expenses.
Understanding what to expect when you apply for SSDI benefits can give you the tenacity required to appeal an unfair decision against you.