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Arizona Social Security Disability Blog

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Social Security Disability Insurance Appeals Process

Q: If I win a Social Security Disability Insurance appeal, are my benefits retroactive?

If you thought that applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits was complicated and time-consuming, wait until you hear about what’s involved in appealing a SSDI or SSI denial in Arizona in the event your initial application is denied.

If you are unable to work, you may qualify for one of the federal government's two disability benefits programs – – Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Both programs are different, but each requires the applicant to meet the Social Security Administration's definition of "disabled" which is "suffering from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more or result in death." Some people may qualify for both benefits programs, depending on their particular situation.

A skilled disability law attorney will be able to help you with the complex application as well as determining which program to apply for. In general, SSDI is a work-based program available only to those who have paid into the Social Security system through income tax contributions over a required period of time before they became disabled.  The other disability program, SSI, is a means-based program generally available to those of extremely limited financial resources and are of advanced age or disabled.

Appealing an SSDI or SSI denial in Arizona can be up to a four-step appeals process depending on how many unfavorable rulings may be made along the way. It is important that you don’t miss the deadline for filing an appeal.

The 4 stages of the appeals process are:

Stage 1: Request for Reconsideration. Where a third party reviews the initial application and decision. If denied again, move on to stage 2.

Stage 2:  Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge. Information and medical evidence is exchanged and made part of the administrative record before the hearing.  During the hearing, witnesses are questioned and additional documents may be submitted. Then the Judge will either affirm or overturn the denial. If affirmed, move to stage 3.

Stage 3: The Social Security Appeals Council Review Request. The Appeals Council can review the record and grant the benefits or send the case back down for another hearing.  They can also agree with the denial, refusing to review the case at all. If you fail here, move to the final stage.

Stage 4: Start a Federal lawsuit. This Court’s decision is the final outcome of your claim.

As you can see, the initial application as well as the multiple levels of the appeals process can take an enormous amount of time. And during that time, the applicant and their family is likely struggling financially waiting for those benefits. Having Disability Attorneys of Arizona on your side may make the difference in receiving benefits or not. Fortunately, retroactive benefits are available if your application or appeal is granted.

If you are unable to work and are anywhere in the Social Security Disability application or appeals process, Roeschke Law can help you. Call us at 800-975-1866 for a free initial consultation and assessment of your claim. From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled clients throughout Arizona.

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