When people in California apply for Social Security Disability benefits, they may consider how they can improve their application for benefits and increase their likelihood of approval. People who are applying for benefits because they are unable to work often desperately need the funds and may look for every opportunity to enhance their chances of a positive determination. However, in the first two steps of the process, the initial application and the reconsideration appeal, there are few opportunities for an applicant to bolster their file.

At these stages of a Social Security Disability benefits application, the decision is made by disability examiners. In every state, these examiners have a higher rate of denied applications than administrative law judges, who preside over disability hearings, the next stage of a benefits application. When people first apply for SSD benefits, they do not have an opportunity to provide additional documents, seek out new medical opinions or answer questions directly from the decision-maker. Often, the first communication an applicant receives from the disability examiner is the notice of decision about their benefits.

On the other hand, disability hearings give applicants the opportunity to answer questions directly from the administrative law judge. In addition, claimants can locate and add to their file important medical records that may be missing from the file, despite providing information about a treatment provider. Furthermore, while reports from an applicant’s own doctor are often given little priority during an initial review, they can be given significant weight by an administrative law judge.

Negotiating the Social Security Disability application process can be complex and time-consuming. A disability lawyer may be able to help SSD claimants maximize their chances for a positive outcome during the initial stages or when facing a disability hearing. An attorney might work with their clients to elaborate upon their application and gather medical documentation that can be significant in gaining approval.