Montana

How Do I Appeal a Denial of Social Security Income or Disability Benefits?

Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) LSC Funded
Contents
Information

Information

If the Social Security Administration (SSA) says that you are not disabled and denies your application for benefits, you have the right to ask for a reconsideration of the denial.

How do I ask for a reconsideration?

You must fill out a Request for Reconsideration form. You must give the completed form to the SSA within a certain amount of time after you get the denial. You have to have a good reason to be late in asking for a reconsideration. There may be other forms you need to fill out in addition to the form for reconsideration. You can find out more information and get forms at your local Social Security office or by calling the SSA at its toll-free phone number 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the toll-free "TTY" number 1-800-325-0778. You can also find information and get forms on the SSA web site at: www.ssa.gov.

Is there anyone to help me?

There are organizations you can call for information and/or help:

  • The People's Law Center. 1-406-443-3896 or 1-800-406-5567.
  • Lawyer Referral and Information Service. 1-406-449-6577.

How can I prove I'm disabled?

Many applications for benefits are denied because the SSA believes that a person is not disabled. If this is what happened in your case, you can do the following:

  • Ask to see the medical evidence in your file. Make sure that it is complete.
  • If you have a health care provider who has treated you, make sure that person sends a report to SSA. Make sure that any letter from the health care provider says why s/he thinks that you are disabled and not able to work.
  • SSA may have sent you to see a health care provider who has never seen you before. If this happened in your case, ask SSA to order and pay for another evaluation from your own health care provider if s/he believes you are disabled and is willing to do an evaluation. Your own health care provider's opinion is very important. If your own health care provider gives you an evaluation which shows you are disabled, SSA may change it decision in your case.

What can I do if the reconsideration is denied?

If the reconsideration is denied, you may appeal. An appeal means that you will ask for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You must file a hearing request within 60 days of the date you received notice of the denial. You can get the form to request a hearing and file the form at your local Social Security office. Or, you can call SSA and have the request for hearing form mailed to you, then fill it out and mail it back to them. There may be other forms you need to fill out in addition to the request for hearing. You can find out more information and get forms at your local Social Security office or by calling the SSA at its toll-free phone number 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the toll-free "TTY" number 1-800-325-0778. You can also find information and get forms on the SSA web site at: www.ssa.gov.

Your hearing will not take place until many months after you request it. You will get notice of the hearing date at least 20 days before your hearing. If you get any more evidence in your case, such as new medical records which show that you are disabled, you should give them to the ALJ as soon as they are available.

Should I apply for benefits instead of appealing?

Because it takes so long for hearings to be held, some people choose not to ask for a hearing. Instead, they file a new application for benefits. However, filing a new application instead of asking for a hearing may prevent you from getting all the benefits you might. And in some cases, failing to ask for a hearing can result in your inability to get benefits even if you reapply. In many cases it is better to ask for a hearing to appeal the denial of the reconsideration rather than reapply for benefits.

Can I represent myself at the hearing?

You can choose to represent yourself at your hearing. Or, you can call the following organizations for information and/or help:

  • The People's Law Center. 1-406-443-3896 or 1-800-406-5567.
  • Lawyer Referral and Information Service. 1-406-449-6577.

How do I represent myself?

Before the hearing, you will get a document from the SSA that tells you which documents are in your file. If you represent yourself, you should get a copy of your file. It contains the only information the judge has about you. Call the Office of Hearings and Appeals and make an appointment to copy your file before the hearing. If health care information is missing from your file, get copies of that missing information to the judge before the hearing if possible.

At the hearing it is very important that you tell the judge everything about your disability. It is important to tell the judge how your disability affects you and prevents you from being able to work. If someone you know has seen how your disability affects you, you can ask that person to come to the hearing with you. That person can testify as a witness for you about how your disability affects you.

At the hearing it is very important to tell the judge if there is incorrect information in your file. You will want to tell the judge the correct information.

It is a good idea to take a list to the hearing of the things you want to tell the judge and you want your witnesses to tell the judge. You can also make a list of the information in your file that you believe is incorrect. These lists will help you remember to tell the judge what you need to.

What happens after the hearing?

After the hearing the judge will make a decision about your case. This may take a few months. The decision will be sent to you by mail. Always be sure to tell the SSA if your address changes so that all notices and decisions are sure to reach you at your new address.