Chronic fatigue and searing pain in the abdomen have forced you to miss a significant amount of time at work. The diagnosis of colon cancer gives you the opportunity to file a Social Security Disability (SSD) claim with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Although your symptoms are severe, that does not mean the SSA will approve your SSA application.
If the SSA denied your SSD application for colon cancer, you have the right to file an appeal. In fact, the SSA has instituted a four-step appeal process for SSD benefits: Reconsideration, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing, a review by the Appeals Council, and finally, a hearing in a Federal District Court.
Reconsideration of Original Claim
Reconsideration unfolds similarly like the initial application. You file a claim with the SSA, which in turn once again reviews your information. Reconsideration gives you a second chance to make a positive first impression. This means you should submit additional medical documentation that bolsters your claim for SSD benefits. Reconsideration helps applicants avoid filing a new claim, which inevitably returns the same denial decision as the first claim.
How Does an ALJ Hearing Work?
Unlike the original application and the appeal for reconsideration, an ALJ hearing offers applicants the chance to present their claim in person in front of an administrative law judge. An administrative law judge has the opportunity to ask you questions that clarify the information you submitted on your SSD application. The second stage of the appeals process requires the legal support of a state-licensed Social Security attorney who argues your case in front of the judge.
Appeals Council Review
Every step of the appeals process refers to the step that happened immediately before it. For example, an ALJ hearing is about the decisions issued by the SSA for the original claim and the reconsideration for appeal. As the third state of the SSD appeals process, an Appeals Council Review is done strictly through written communications. You have to submit Form HA-520 that is the Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order. As part of the SSA, the Appeals Council reviews the decision issued by the administrative law judge in step two of the appeals process.
Final Appeal in a Federal District Court
As the last step of the SSD appeals process, a hearing in a Federal District Court involves a judge who reviews the decision made by the Appeals Council. What the judge looks for is one or more flaws in the legal reasoning of the administrative law judge that ruled on your claim in step two of the appeals process. If the Federal district Court judge determines the administrative law judge made an error in judgment, the Federal District Court Judge kicks your claim back to step two of the appeals process. The Federal District Judge can mention issues the administrative law judge did not consider during the ALJ hearing.
Get Legal Support with Your SSD claim
There is a lot on the line during the SSD appeals process. Medical bills add up quickly and with no income coming in, you might approach financial insolvency. Contacting an experienced Social Security lawyer can help you win an appeal for SSD benefits. This is especially true for step two of the appeals process when you have the opportunity to speak with an administrative law judge. Most Social Security lawyers operate on a contingency fee payment model that gives them more motivation to win cases for clients.