In the State of Florida, only 46 percent of Social Security Disability applications are approved initially. Because of high denial rates, it is important to understand the process for appealing if your claim is denied.
Appealing involves asking for reconsideration of your eligibility for benefits. There are multiple stages of appeals. The first stage, a request for reconsideration, involves asking for a new review of your claim to be conducted by a different disability claims examiner than the person who initially reviewed your claim. The next stage involves an appeals hearing. The third stage involves a review by the Social Security disability appeals council. Finally, the last level of appeal involves appealing to a federal court.
The appeals process can be a lengthy one. The national average processing time if an appeals hearing is necessary is 368 days. During the initial appeals hearing, the case comes before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ is not a court judge, but rather works for the Social Security Administration.
There are different locations where hearings are held, depending upon where you live. In Florida, there are hearing officers in Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg, and Tallahassee, among other locations. A complete list of hearing locations for Florida can be found on the Social Security Administration website under the listings for locations in Region 4.
A successful appeal requires substantial evidence of an impairment which is considered long-term and which meets the Social Security Administration’s narrow definition of “disabled.” Medical records are required. At the hearing before the ALJ, applicants must also be prepared to present witnesses and make a convincing case.