Curious about how long the disability appeal take with a lawyer? Allow us to guide you through the various stages and timeline of a disability appeal, providing all the essential information you need to know.
If you have applied for disability benefits and received a denial, you may be wondering how long it will take to appeal the decision and what are the chances of winning your case.
You may also be considering hiring a lawyer to help you with the appeal process. In this article, we will answer these questions and provide you with all the latest information you need to know about disability appeals in 2023.
Applying for disability benefits can be a long and complicated process.
The level of appeal and the state where you file your claim can make a disability appeal take from 30 days to over a year.
The appeal process can take months or even years to complete, depending on various factors such as the complexity of your case, the backlog of cases in your state, and the availability of judges.
If you are thinking about appealing a disability denial, you may be wondering how long it will take to get a final decision and whether you need a lawyer to help you with your case. In this article, we will explain how the appeal process works, how long each stage takes, and what are the benefits of hiring a lawyer for your disability appeal.
The Appeal Process
The SSA has four levels of appeal for disability claims: reconsideration, hearing, appeals council review, and federal court.
You have 60 days from the date you receive your denial letter to request an appeal at each level. Here is an overview of each level and how long it takes on average:
Reconsideration is the first level of appeal. The level of appeal and the state where you file your claim can make a disability appeal take from 30 days to over a year.
The examiner will look at all the evidence you submitted with your application, as well as any new evidence you provide with your appeal request. The examiner will then issue a new decision based on the same rules and criteria as the initial decision.
Reconsideration is usually the fastest level of appeal, but it also has the lowest approval rate. According to SSA data from December 2021, only about 13% of reconsiderations were approved. The average processing time for reconsiderations was 103 days.
If your reconsideration is denied, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
A hearing is an informal proceeding where you and your lawyer (if you have one) can present your case in person or by video conference. You can submit new evidence, testify about your medical condition and work history, and question any witnesses or experts that the SSA may call.
The ALJ will listen to both sides and make an independent decision based on all the evidence and testimony.
A hearing is usually the slowest but also the most successful level of appeal. According to SSA data from December 2021, about 54% of hearings were approved. The average processing time for hearings was 326 days.
Appeals Council Review
If your hearing is denied, you can request a review by the SSA’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is a group of administrative appeals judges who can review the ALJ’s decision for any errors or omissions.
They can either uphold, reverse, or remand (send back) the ALJ’s decision for further actionand can also deny your request for review if it finds no reason to change the ALJ’s decision.
Their review is rarely successful and often takes longer than a hearing. According to SSA data from December 2021, only about 2% of appeals council reviews were approved. The average processing time for appeals council reviews was 374 days.
If your appeals council review is denied or dismissed, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court.
This is the last level of appeal and the most complex and expensive one. You will need a lawyer to represent you in court and file the necessary paperwork. The court will review the SSA’s decision for any legal errors or violations of your rights. The court can either affirm, reverse, or remand the SSA’s decision.
The federal court appeal is very rare and has a low success rate.
According to SSA data from December 2021, only about 1% of federal court appeals were approved. The average processing time for federal court appeals was 583 days.
The Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer
As you can see, the appeal process can be lengthy and challenging, especially if you have to go beyond the reconsideration level. That’s why many applicants choose to hire a lawyer to help them with their disability appeal. A lawyer can provide you with several advantages, such as:
- Gathering and submitting medical evidence. A lawyer can help you obtain your medical records, reports, and opinions from your doctors and other sources that support your disability claim. A lawyer can also help you fill out any forms or questionnaires that the SSA may send you during the appeal process.
- Preparing your testimony. A lawyer can help you prepare for your hearing by coaching you on how to answer the ALJ’s questions and what to expect at the hearing. A lawyer can also help you highlight the most important aspects of your case and avoid any pitfalls or inconsistencies that may hurt your credibility.
- Cross-examining witnesses. A lawyer can cross-examine any witnesses or experts that the SSA may call at your hearing, such as vocational experts or medical experts. A lawyer can challenge their qualifications, methods, or conclusions and expose any flaws or biases in their testimony.
- Arguing your case before the judge. A lawyer can make a persuasive opening and closing statement at your hearing, summarizing the main points of your case and explaining why you meet the SSA’s definition of disability. A lawyer can also cite relevant laws, regulations, and rulings that support your claim and counter any arguments that the SSA may make against you.
- Handling any post-hearing issues. A lawyer can help you deal with any issues that may arise after your hearing, such as requesting a copy of the hearing transcript, submitting additional evidence or arguments, or appealing to the next level if necessary.
Hiring a lawyer can significantly increase your chances of winning your appeal, especially at the hearing level. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reported that applicants who had a representative (like a lawyer) at their hearing were three times more likely to get approval compared to those who did not.
- The level of appeal and the state where you file your claim can make a disability appeal take from 30 days to over a year.
- There are four levels of appeals: reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing, appeals council review, and federal court.
- Hiring a lawyer can increase your chances of winning your appeal, especially at the hearing level, where more than half of the cases are approved.
- A lawyer can help you gather and submit medical evidence, prepare your testimony, cross-examine witnesses, and argue your case before the judge.
- A lawyer will only charge you a fee if you win your case, and the fee is limited by law to 25% of your past-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.
READ MORE: How Much Does a Disability Lawyer Cost?
Appealing a disability denial can be a daunting task, but it is not impossible. With patience, persistence, and professional help, you may be able to overturn the SSA’s decision and get the benefits you deserve.
If you are considering hiring a lawyer for your disability appeal, you should know that most lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they only charge you a fee if you win your case.
The law limits the fee to 25% of your past-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.
You can use our free online tool today to get matched with a qualified and experienced disability lawyer in your area, providing the help you need. Just answer a few questions about your case and we will connect you with a lawyer, who can review your case and advise you on the best course of action.
Don’t wait any longer – start your disability appeal today!