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How can I win my disability benefits appeal?

Up to 70% of claimants are denied at the initial disability application level, leaving many of them with the same question, “What do I have to do to win my disability benefits appeal?”

The first step in the appeals process is to file an appeal within 60 days from the date of the denial letter. Whether you decide to file an appeal really depends on why you were denied.

Some applicants will NEVER win SSDI or SSI disability benefits because they do not meet the nonmedical requirements of the program. For instance, if you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI disability benefits and your income and resource level is too high for SSI, you will continue to be denied benefits regardless of the number of times you apply or the severity of your health condition.

So, let’s talk about the steps to ensure you can win by filing a disability benefits appeal.

1.    Identify why you were denied.

Before you rush to complete the reconsideration paperwork, which is the first step in the denial process, the first thing to do is review your denial letter. This should have been sent to you by the SSA and should clearly list why your SSDI or SSI case was denied.

As mentioned above, if you are currently working too much, your income is too high, you do not have enough work credits (for SSDI only), or your resource level is too high for SSI then there is no reason to appeal the denial decision unless there is changes in your eligibility status. For instance, if your income level was too high due to your spouse’s income and you were denied SSI benefits but you have recently been divorced, depending on the amount of spousal support you are paid, this may lower your income to a level which now means you are eligible for SSI benefits and you could either appeal the denial decision or file another SSI claim.

2.    Determine if you have enough medical records to prove your condition is severe, and will last for at least 12 continuous months.

If you were denied because the SSA states your condition is not severe enough or it is short-term but you are convinced they are wrong because you lack medical evidence to support your opinion, it is time to see the right doctors and get the right medical evidence to prove your disability case.

3. Make sure you understand the disability process

Thousands of applicants are denied because they simply do not understand what they are trying to prove. Whether you are denied at the reconsideration level or at the hearing level it is important to understand the process. For instance, many disability applicants are denied at the hearing because there is a vocational expert there that claims they can retrain for new work.

Maybe you were at the hearing and you failed to hire a disability lawyer and you sat baffled as the vocational expert rambled on about your past relevant work as it is generally performed or information from Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and your continuing ability to perform job functions such as kneeling, stooping, fingering, lifting, and walking on scaffolds. Unless you are familiar with the process used to discredit the vocational expert you might have been at a loss about how to counter their claims. You might have wished you would have talked to a disability lawyer before the hearing, but by then it was too late, which brings us to our last recommendation.

4. Talk to a disability lawyer

Disability lawyers only get paid if you win so you should be able to consult with a disability lawyer about your SSDI or SSI case free of charge.
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