What To Do When Your Initial SSDI Claim is Denied


If your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim has been denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA), don’t give up. In many ways, the myriad of government paperwork and bureaucracy may feel overwhelming. But the system is not designed to keep disabled people from getting the benefits they need. Social Security disability lawyers specialize in handling denials and appeals to help injured or disabled people receive benefits every day. They are experts in navigating the Social Security Administration, and can assist you with your next steps. You may hesitate to contact a disability attorney for many reasons, and we understand that. Know that an experienced disability legal team is fighting on your behalf to help you obtain the benefits that you deserve, and isn’t there to take advantage of you. The right legal team is your advocate, fighting for your rights. 

First Step: Find Out Why You Were Denied

According to the SSA, an average of 62% of all initial SSDI claims are denied. The most common reasons are: 

  • You earn too much money, which in 2021, is any amount over $2190 per month.
  • Your disability either isn’t severe enough, or won’t last long enough, for you to be eligible. 
  • The Social Security Administration either can’t find you (For example, you’ve moved.) or can’t communicate with you (Your phone number has changed or been disconnected.) 
  • You haven’t cooperated with the SSA. 
  • You don’t follow the prescribed therapy or treatment. 
  • Your disability is based on drug or alcohol dependence.
  • You’ve been convicted of a felony.
  • You’ve obtained your benefits fraudulently.

Second Step: Understand Your Disability as Defined by the SSA

You must have a disability that meets the SSA’s definition of disability. Because of the specificity of these definitions, it’s important to fully understand how your disability fits within their system so that you receive the proper benefits that you deserve. If you don’t meet these specific criteria, or if your initial claim fails to properly show that you do meet the criteria, you may be denied benefits. 

 The Social Security Administration has specific criteria one must meet to file for disability: 

  1. Are you currently working?
  2. Is your condition “severe”? 
  3. Is your condition itemized in the list of disabling conditions?
  4. Can you do the work you’ve done previously?
  5. Can you do any other types of work?

You can find additional details to these questions directly with the Social Security Administration.

The list of medical conditions that meet the SSA’s definition of disability can be found here. The listing of impairments for adults is different than for children with disabilities, but both include physical and mental conditions that either prevent you from working or provide your child with the benefits needed for their medical care. 

Third Step: With an Attorney, Consider Your Options

If, based on your attorney’s advice, you are a good candidate for an appeal, you’ll first need to discuss your options with your disability attorney. In order to understand and choose the best path going forward, you need to know the different choices you have with an appeal. 

  1. Reconsideration: If you have additional medical evidence to submit, a good path to follow is reconsideration. Your case will be reviewed again by a different team within Disability Determination Services (DDS). You must file for reconsideration within 60 days of your denial. 
  2. Request a Hearing: Although a hearing can take up to a year to be scheduled, it’s often the best path toward receiving benefits. Your case will be determined by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). For a hearing, it’s highly recommended that you have an attorney, although it is not required. 
  3. Additional steps: if you disagree with the ALJ’s decision in your hearing, you can take your case to the federal level and ask for a review from the SSA’s Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council agrees with the ALJ’s decision, you may file a lawsuit in federal district court as your final recourse.

Why Contact an SSDI Lawyer?

It’s important to know that for many applications, these steps toward appealing your denial are only the beginning of what can be a long journey toward receiving disability benefits. Your case may be easily approved, but in most cases, the SSA requires more information, or processes an appeal, or even files a denial of benefits. Often, denials are based on technical errors or missing information--two problems that can be easily rectified with the right attorney group on your side. 

Other reasons the right legal team can help you win benefits:

  • Your case will be taken more seriously by the SSA and the judge when you have representation.
  • A local attorney knows the details of the system and the people involved.
  • You won’t omit important information that may help you win your benefits.
  • They’ll represent you in a hearing and will help you prepare your statement.
  • You won’t miss important deadlines for filing documents and appeals.
  • A disability attorney is only paid if you win your claim.
  • It brings peace of mind knowing you have a legal team looking out for your best interests.
  • You’re more likely to win benefits with legal representation.

When to Contact Affleck & Gordon

Once you have applied online or in person for your disability claim, you have the option of seeking representation with a qualified, local SSI/SSDI attorney group to assist you with your claim and a potential appeal. We want to be your partner as you move forward through your claim and the process for gaining the disability benefits that you deserve. 

In almost all cases, Social Security claimants won’t pay an up-front attorney’s fee. Instead, their attorney will only be paid a percentage of their initial back pay of benefits, according to a national federal standard, if they win their claim.

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