Social Security Process

Please note that the timeframes are based off an AVERAGE for people who apply for disability benefits in our area. The wait time and denial rates change every year. These numbers are based off of 2016 numbers and timeframes.

We can help you fill out your application paperwork and file it on your behalf.

If your application is denied, Evans & Evans will appeal your case and request reconsidertion.

If the request is denied, we will request a hearing by an administrative law judge.

We prepare our clients very throughly for their hearing. We order medical records and reach out to supportive doctors. Our attorneys schedule mock-hearings to make sure our clients are prepared for their hearing.

If we are not successful at the hearing, we can appeal your case to the Appeals Council.

 

Application Level

The initial application level of the Social Security Disability process starts by filing your disability claim. Then the Social Security Administration reviews your application. In this phase of the process, you will complete your initial application and provide SSA with the documentation necessary to process your claim for Social Security Disability benefits.

  • It normally takes between four to six months for a Social Security Disability applicant to receive a decision on their initial application.

Evans & Evans will sit with you and help you fill out your application. You can file your application for Social Security Disability online, over the phone, or at your local Social Security office. You will be required to answer questions relevant to your disability and to fill out several questionnaires regarding your work history, activity of daily living, and medical providers.

Once SSA approves or denies your claim, they will send you a letter notifying you of their decision. If you are approved for benefits, your letter will state the amount of your monthly benefits and when those benefits will begin. If your application was not approved, then the letter will explain why you were denied by and what you need to do if you want to appeal the decision.

  • Social Security only approves approximately 33% of claims at the initial application level. The remaining 66% of applicants are denied benefits at this stage.

 

Reconsideration

If you apply for Social Security Disability and your claim is denied, you have the option of appealing the decision. This first appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration.

If your initial application is denied, you must file for reconsideration within 60 days of receiving SSA’s denial letter.

When you file a Request for Reconsideration with SSA, your application will be sent back to the Social Security office for review. A new examiner will reconsider your disability claim.

  • In our region, approximately 85% of claims are denied at the reconsideration level.

During the reconsideration appeal, we update SSA with new information. We help you fill out SSA forms,  and we get your supportive doctors’ opinions into your SSA file.

Once SSA has made a decision regarding your reconsideration appeal, they will send you a letter in writing notifying you of their decision. The letter will explain whether or not your appeal was successful and why. If it was not successful, the letter will also describe your rights to appeal.

  • On average, it takes between four to six months to complete the Social Security Disability reconsideration process and to receive this letter of decision.

 

Hearing

If your application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, there is an appeals process to overturn the Social Security Administration’s denial. The first step of the appeal process is a Request for Reconsideration. If your reconsideration is denied, the next step is a Request for a Hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).

  • If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, you must file a Request for a Hearing within 60 days of receiving the letter denying your reconsideration.

When you request a hearing, the decision as to whether or not you receive disability benefits is in the hands of an administrative law judge. The ALJ who hears your Social Security Disability case will make a decision based on the evidence you present at your hearing as well as any testimonies that may be heard at the hearing.

It is important to have proper legal representation during the Social Security Disability hearing process. Most people have never had to represent themselves in front of a judge, let alone for a disability claim. A Social Security Disability attorney can make sure that your hearing is held properly, that the right questions are asked, and that you are prepared to present your case.

  • In Oregon, the average time frame to have your hearing (from the date you request your hearing) is approximately 17.3 months.
  • In Washington, the average time frame to have your hearing (from the date you request your hearing) is approximately 16.8 months.

Fortunately, your chances of being awarded Social Security Disability benefits are much greater at this stage than at the initial application and reconsideration stages of the application process. This also emphasizes the important of having good representation and preparation for your disability hearing.

 

Appeals Council

If you receive a decision from the Administrative Law Judge that you disagree with, then you have 60 days to ask for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. The Social Security Appeals Council will not review your actual disability claim. The Appeals Council only reviews whether or not the decision rendered by the administrative law judge was made according to law.

It can be very hard to win an appeal at this stage of the Social Security Disability claim process. In most cases, the Appeals Council will simply send you a letter stating that the appeal has been denied and will uphold the decision made by the administrative law judge (ALJ). However, there are some situations in which the Appeals Council will send the case back for another hearing or overturn the decision made by the administrative law judge and approve you for Social Security Disability benefits.

  • The average time it takes for to process an appeal with the Social Security Appeals Council is approximately 12 months.

It is important to understand the statistics of favorability are very low at the Appeals Council.

  • 72% of appeals are denied by the Appeals Council.
  • 22.5% of appeals are remanded back for another hearing with an ALJ.
  • 3% of appeals receive a new decision from the Appeals Council.
  • 2.5% of appeals result in a dismissal (because the appeal was not filed by the deadline).

 

US District Court

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a long and stressful process. After being denied benefits, it can be tempting to give up. If you are truly disabled and feel that you rightfully deserve disability benefits, you should not give up at this stage in the appeals process.

If the Appeals Council denies your claim, you must file a request for review in United States District Court within 60 days of the date of your Appeals Council decision. You should also understand that time is of the essence when filing an appeal with the Federal District Court.

The appeals process at the Federal District Court level can be a very confusing and legally complicated one. Because of this, it is important to have an experienced disability lawyer representing you during the Federal District Court appeal. Your lawyer will be responsible for filing the complaint and writing the opening and reply briefs. In addition to these required documents, the Federal District Court may also require an oral argument. In this case, your attorney will need to argue your case in front of a Judge.

It is important to understand that your case is no longer going to be decided by someone who is employed by the Social Security Administration. Your case will now be decided by a United States Federal Court Judge. These Judges decide many cases other than just Social Security cases. US District Court Judges preside on a wide range of Federal criminal and civil cases.

No documents, evidence or testimony will be considered in this stage of the Social Security Disability appeals process. Once the briefs have been filed and the oral argument is over, the Judge will decide the outcome of your case. At this point, one of three things can happen. The Judge can either:

  • Decide to uphold the decision made by the Social Security Disability Appeals Council.
  • Decide to remand your case for additional review by the Social Security Administration.
  • Decide to grant you your Social Security Disability benefits.

Because Federal District Court Judges experience very heavy workloads, the timeframe can be long.

  • It can take approximately one year or more to receive a decision regarding your Federal District Court appeal.

If your appeal is denied at the Federal District Court level, you can appeal to the Federal Circuit Court and potentially even to the United States Supreme Court.