California residents who are unable to work due to severe physical or mental disabilities often seek Social Security Disability benefits. Certain severe conditions, such as terminal cancer, paralysis, kidney failure and statutory blindness, usually gain approval during the initial application process. A denial of an application, however, does not represent the final word from the Social Security Administration if the person appeals.

After a denial, a person has the option to request a reconsideration appeal. This second review will only check to see if the initial examiner applied the criteria for the person’s disease or condition correctly. Reconsideration appeals reverse initial decisions very rarely. Only 12 to 24 percent of reconsideration appeals result in approval of benefits. Despite this low success rate, reconsideration must be pursued before someone can ask for a second appeal, which involves a hearing with an administrative law judge.

These hearings offer a person a much greater chance of success. Medical records and vocational assessments need to be well documented and clearly presented. When disabled people have a representative prepare and present their cases to judges, the chance of success rises to over 60 percent.

A person struggling with conditions that limit physical or mental function could seek representation from a lawyer. Legal services could shift the burden of communicating a disability off the shoulders of a person afflicted by disease or catastrophic injury. Support from someone familiar with the SSD bureaucracy could help someone avoid paperwork mistakes and communicate medical problems clearly. A lawyer could fill out paperwork according to SSD coding practices, organize documentation and follow the correct application and appeals procedures. With legal support, a disabled person might keep up with deadlines.