The Social Security Administration frequently denies applications for disability benefits. A denial — even a second denial after a reconsideration appeal — does not exhaust options for applicants in California. By obtaining a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, applicants get a third chance. Hearings often prove successful for applicants with representation. Over 60 percent of applicants who bring legal representation to a hearing are awarded benefits.

To avoid having to start a new application, people must meet deadlines for the appeals process. After the agency denies an initial application, people have 60 days plus five mailing days to prepare and submit paperwork asking for a reconsideration appeal. Applicants should send medical records that document the disabling condition and the date of the onset of disability. An appeal should also include current medical records generated within the previous 90 days. Disability examiners prefer to see records from physicians who have been providing treatment.

Although reconsideration appeals still deny applicants 85 percent of the time, the step must be taken in order to qualify for a hearing. After a denial at this stage, an applicant can submit a request for a hearing.

People have the option of using legal representation when petitioning the government for Social Security disability benefits. Third-party assistance could prove especially helpful for someone whose disability makes gathering and organizing paperwork difficult. An attorney familiar with the process could track down contact information for medical providers, organize medical records and guide a client through the bureaucratic challenges of filing an application.