An initial claim for social security disability benefits is usually denied in Indiana. Accompanying the denial will be a letter specifying the reason(s) for the denial. For those who disagree with the decision, there is an appeal procedure. Social Security must receive a written request within 60 days of the claimant’s receipt of the letter or the denial will stand.
This first level of appeal, called reconsideration is almost identical to the initial review. At reconsideration, a different disability examiner will process the claim, but most often the same medical records will be reexamined. The applicant can, however, submit supplemental information if new treatment or diagnosis has occurred since the initial application was submitted. Statistically, denials are higher at reconsideration than at the initial application phase.
Although a small number of claimants are successful at reconsideration, the real benefit of going through the process is that reconsideration must be denied before the applicant can reach the next phase of appeal — a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge. At the hearing, testimony by medical professionals, occupational experts and the claimant is permissible. In many ways, the hearing is similar to an informal trial. Witnesses testify under oath, the proceedings are transcribed and the administrative law judge ultimately renders a decision.
Legal representation is permitted at any stage of the disability process. When a social security disability lawyer represents a claimant at an administrative law hearing, benefits are awarded more than 60 percent of the time on average. This is often the best chance a disability applicant has to be successful.