The Social Security Administration (SSA) reported receiving 849,869 requests for hearings in FY 2012. Most SSDI claims are denied with the application, and individuals must file a disability appeal to reach the hearing. This leads many people to ask, ‘Should I file a disability appeal?’ With a disability appeal, it’s critical to consider the options you have.
SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program operated separately from Medicare, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Workers must have paid FICA payroll taxes to be eligible for SSDI benefits. To qualify, someone must have experienced a severe disability that will prevent work for 12 months or longer and have a documented work history. Typically, claimants must have worked five out of the last 10 years. Following are eight common mistakes for those considering a disability appeal:
Disability applicants give up.
Most people are denied benefits with the application, and the program has several more levels of claims review. You have the right to seek SSDI benefits if you truly cannot work any longer because of a severe disability.
Applicants miss the disability appeal deadline.
Claimants have 60 days to file the disability appeal after the initial denial. If they miss the deadline, they must start at the beginning with a new claim. This carries risks. For instance, now the date of your application—which SSA uses in part to calculate your Social Security benefits—is going to be different.
Applicants continue to make the same mistakes with their disability appeal paperwork.
The initial application may not have provided enough information to the Social Security examiner. Or, the original SSDI claim contained errors and the applicant does not fix those with the disability appeal.
Applicants waste time fighting the initial decision.
All the information provided in the original application becomes part of the permanent record. Even if nobody caught an error in the information, that initial decision stands. Filing the disability appeal is your next opportunity to better explain your claim.
Applicants don’t stay in contact with Social Security.
While appealing, individuals should continue to provide information on visits to doctors and hospitals, and medical tests, such as CT scans and MRIs. This may require phone calls, faxes and letters, which can be time consuming.
Applicants don’t keep copies of their records.
It’s important to keep a record of the materials in your claim, including original applications, medical documentation and work history.
Applicants underestimate or exaggerate their disabilities.
Many people make mistakes with their claims because they present inaccurate information, either overstating or understating the disability. Ensure that you clearly document the disability and its impact on your life.
Applicants wait until it’s too late to get help.
Sometimes people plan to attend the hearing alone, but once they start to receive the information provided by the SSA—they decide they need a representative. You can wait too long to get help from a representative, where there simply is not enough time to properly prepare to take your claim before the administrative law judge. Don’t wait. About 80 percent of claimants have a representative with them at their hearing.