Social Security Disability
Unfortunately, there are many times that an individual is prevented from returning to work after a catastrophic illness or injury. Fortunately, Social Security Disability was established to help individuals who were once active members in the labor market maintain a level of income to provide for their own basic needs, including those of their dependents. Frequently, when applicants are denied upon initial application, they give up without consulting an attorney. If you have been denied benefits, we urge you to contact a lawyer before your time limit for appeal expires. Our office handles appeals at all levels before the Social Security Administration. Many times the attorney fee can be withheld from your benefits and paid directly by the Social Security Administration. More importantly, there is no initial consultation fee.
My office focuses on representing claimants at the hearing level in addition to pursuing the claim for Social Security Disability benefits at the Federal District Court level. The Social Security Disability process has five levels to allow claimants to prove their disabilities. The levels and their relevant statistics are as follows:
- The Initial Application Level – Initial applications are taken by your local social security disability office where it is reviewed by the State of Tennessee Disability Determination Section. In 2010 the Office of Disability Program Management Information reported that the initial level allowed 35% of all claims while denying 65% percent.
- Reconsideration Level – The Reconsideration Level is the next level for claimants who are denied at the application level. However, claimants must timely file their appeals within sixty (60) days of receipt and will normally have to wait ninety (90) days for a decision. According to the fiscal year 2010 work load data from the Office of Disability Program Management Information, 13% of all reconsiderations were allowed while 87% were denied.
- Hearing Level – If you are denied by the State Disability Determination Section you are granted sixty (60) days for which to file your appeal and request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Currently in Tennessee, the wait time for a hearing after your appeal is docketed at the hearing office is less than 300 days for both the Knoxville hearing office and the Chattanooga, Tennessee hearing office. At the Administrative Law Judge level 60% of claims are allowed, 13% are dismissed, and 25% are denied according to the 2010 Office of Disability Program Management Information workload data report.
- Appeals Council – If you are denied at the hearing level you have the right to appeal your case for review before the Appeals Council for review within sixty (60) days of the judge’s written decision denying your claim. According to the Office of Disability Program Management Information fiscal year 2010 work load data, 2% of all appeals council claims are allowed, 2% are dismissed, and 22% are remanded while 74% are denied.
- Federal Court Action– If your claim is denied at the Appeals Council level and if there are grounds to pursue your claim before a Federal District Court Judge you are allowed to file a Federal District Court action within sixty (60) days of the Appeals Council review decision. In 2010 less than 20% of Appeals Council denials resulted in a civil action being filed by the claimant in their local Federal District Court. Only a small percentage of claims are awarded benefits by the Federal Court. In 2010 40% of all District Court actions were denied, 47% were remanded, 9% were dismissed while only 4% were allowed according to the Office of Disability Program Management Information fiscal 2010 work load data.
Based upon the statistical information provided hereinabove, I encourage all my clients to pursue their claims at least through the hearing level and not to give up if there is creditable medical evidence supporting their claim for disability benefits. My office assists claimants in all stages of their appeal up to the hearing level and, if medical evidence provides, even to the Federal District Court level.
I have been engaged in the practice of Social Security Disability Law for over fifteen years and have received many referrals from fellow lawyers, in addition to past and present clients. Please contact me if I can be of assistance.