PLEASE NOTE: Our office is still open, serving our clients, and taking new clients, too! Attorneys and staff are working remotely and/or safely apart within our office(s) while recognizing the recommended guidelines for social distancing. Your health and safety, and that of our staff, is important to our firm. In response to the threats of COVID-19, we are currently offering clients and potential clients the ability to communicate with our attorneys and staff by telephone or email. As soon as it is deemed safe to meet in person, we will be happy to schedule in-office appointments. In the meantime, please contact our office by telephone or email to discuss your legal needs. We continue to fight for your disability benefits during this difficult and unprecedented time. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

The Social Security Disability appeals process

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For many people in California, the Social Security Disability application process can be a lengthy and arduous ordeal. Many deserving claimants are denied when they first seek disability benefits. While some people give up on their claim after an initial rejection, moving forward with an appeal can provide a better chance for success. There are two initial appeals in the disability benefits process, and people have a much higher probability of success with the second stage appeal than with the initial reconsideration appeal. However, moving through the reconsideration process is necessary in order to obtain a disability hearing.

Only around 10 or 15% of claim denials are overturned at the reconsideration appeal level, the first type of appeal after an initial denial. The SSD benefits application is sent back to the same state agency that issued the original denial. This means that the same procedures and evaluation are generally applied once again to the claim. While a different examiner performs the reconsideration, he or she generally looks for serious error on the part of the initial examiner rather than seeking new evidence.

After a reconsideration appeal, the next step in the Social Security Disability process is a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. These judges have greater authority and autonomy in reviewing the decisions made about a disability claim. In general, judges give greater weight to testimony from applicants’ doctors and are less burdened by expectations of a high rejection rate. In addition, the judge can listen to arguments from the applicant as well as his or her disability lawyer.

People who are represented at a disability hearing have a substantially higher likelihood of successfully being awarded Social Security Disability benefits. A disability attorney may work with a claimant throughout the process in order to present relevant, high-quality evidence to support an application.