People seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits often share certain characteristics. In general, they need to have a relatively lengthy work history to qualify. They also need to have a disabling medical condition that directly influences their ability to maintain gainful employment for at least a year.
Those who apply for SSDI are often at a vulnerable point in their lives because they do not yet qualify for retirement benefits but also cannot continue working full-time as they previously have. SSDI benefits are a crucial form of protection for those who cannot work and who must pay their own bills and/or support their families.
And, finally, many applicants who know that they have medical issues affecting their health understandably feel stressed and even frightened when they receive a rejection notice from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Thankfully, people in this position – and there are a lot of them, as SSDI rejections are notoriously common – have options.
They have the right to appeal
The SSA has a reputation for rejecting even significantly disabled individuals when they seek benefits. Thankfully, those worried about their finances at least have the protection of a robust appeals process. There are multiple different stages of appeals, which means that if someone doesn’t succeed initially, they still have an opportunity to obtain benefits.
The first stage of appeal is a reconsideration. This process involves someone from the SSA who did not play a role in the initial application reviewing someone’s paperwork and medical documentation. Reconsiderations are sometimes successful but often are not. Many applicants will then need to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.
Applicants will generally wait multiple months for a hearing depending on the current volume of cases making their way through the system. Often, the wait will last a year or more. However, hearings tend to have a higher success rate for the people appealing than the reconsideration process does.
Those who secure benefits during an appeal hearing will receive not only monthly payments going forward but also backdated benefits in a lump sum for the time after their application when they were eligible for benefits but did not receive them. When a hearing does not result in a favorable outcome for the applicant, they do have the option of pursuing additional levels of appeal, including a hearing with the Appeals Council or in District Court.
Too many people give up and accept a rejection notice that they received from the SSA, possibly with the intent to reapply. A successful reapplication could allow someone to obtain benefits but will not lead to backdated benefits. Knowing how to respond to a rejected SSDI claim can increase someone’s chances of getting the benefits they need while coping with a disabling medical condition without sacrificing backdated compensation.