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How To Appeal A Denied Social Security Disability Claim in Tennessee

Offered by Darrell Castle & Associates, PLLC

A disability lawyer can protect your rights and help you appeal your SSDI claim denial

In Tennessee, many Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants find themselves facing the frustration and uncertainty of a denied claim. However, an SSDI claim denial is not always the end of the road.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) regularly denies applications, and although there is an appeals process, navigating it alone can be challenging. Whether your claim was denied due to insufficient medical evidence, earning too much income, or any other reason, an experienced Tennessee SSDI attorney can help you understand how to address these issues, move forward with your appeal, and fight for the benefits you deserve. 

Hiring an attorney costs you nothing unless they are successful in getting disability benefits for you. Even then, the fee is a tiny percentage of past due benefits, and you keep every dollar going forward.

Why does Social Security deny disability claims?

Many SSDI applicants find themselves facing denial for reasons that could have been addressed with a better understanding of the requirements and process. According to the Social Security Administration, an average of 67% of SSDI claims get denied. 

The SSA will send a detailed denial notice when your claim is denied. This letter will explain the specific reasons for the denial and provide information about your right to appeal. Read this letter carefully to understand the issues that must be addressed in your appeal.

Here are some of the most common reasons for an SSDI claim denial:

  • Insufficient medical evidence: The Social Security Administration requires detailed medical records that clearly demonstrate the severity and impact of your disability.
  • Failure to follow prescribed treatment: The SSA needs assurance that your condition persists despite appropriate medical intervention.
  • Earning too much income: SSDI benefits are intended for individuals who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). If your income exceeds the SGA limit, your disability claim will likely be denied.
  • Lack of cooperation: Failure to provide necessary information or attend required medical examinations can result in denial. Cooperation with all SSA requests is a must for a successful claim.
  • Previous denials: If you have been denied benefits before and reapply without addressing the reasons for the previous denial, your SSDI claim may be denied again.

Steps to Appeal a Denied SSDI Claim

Appealing a denied SSDI claim involves several stages, each with specific procedures and timelines.

Step 1: Request for reconsideration

You can file the request for reconsideration online through the SSA’s website, by mail, or in person at your local Social Security office. Ensure you use the correct forms (Form SSA-561) and provide any additional documentation that addresses the reasons for the initial denial.

Include any new or updated medical evidence, personal statements, and any other relevant information that was not part of your initial application. Clearly explain how this new information supports your claim for disability benefits.

You must file a request for reconsideration within 60 days of receiving your denial notice. Missing this deadline can result in having to start the application process over.

Step 2: Hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ)

If your reconsideration is denied, you have 60 days to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This request can be filed online, by mail, or in person.

The hearing is a more formal process in which the ALJ reviews your case. You will have the opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses, and make your case in person. The judge may ask questions about your condition and how it affects your daily activities.

Before the hearing, collect updated medical records, doctors’ opinions, and any new evidence that can support your claim. Be sure to provide detailed documentation of your condition’s impact on your daily life and ability to work.

It also helps to arrange for witnesses who can testify about your condition and its effects on your ability to function. This could include family members, friends, or colleagues who have firsthand knowledge of your situation.

Step 3: Appeals council review

If the ALJ denies your claim, you can request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council within 60 days. The Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision and determine if it was made correctly based on the evidence.

The Appeals Council may uphold the ALJ’s decision, reverse it, or send your case back to the ALJ for further review. They may also decline to review your case if they believe their decision was correct.

At this stage, having an experienced Tennessee SSDI attorney can be extremely beneficial. They can help you navigate complicated legal arguments and present your case more effectively.

Step 4: Federal court review

If the Appeals Council denies your request or you disagree with their decision, you can file a lawsuit in federal district court. This must be done within 60 days of receiving the Appeals Council’s decision.

The federal court process involves filing a complaint, serving it to the SSA, and presenting your case before a judge. Additionally, the federal court can affirm the SSA’s decision, reverse it, or remand it for further proceedings. 

What evidence should I gather before my SSDI appeal?

Ensure all your medical records are current and include detailed information about your condition. This documentation should cover diagnosis, treatment, and the impact on your daily life and ability to work.

Collect witness statements or arrange for testimony from people who know you well, such as family members, friends, or former colleagues. 

Also, seek opinions from specialists relevant to your disability. For example, if you are applying for SSDI benefits due to a severe back disorder, an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist would be considered relevant specialists. A detailed report from a specialist can carry significant weight in supporting your claim.

Get an experienced SSDI lawyer on your side

While legal representation isn’t mandatory at any stage of the appeals process, it's highly advisable to have an attorney by your side. A lawyer can communicate more effectively with the SSA and present your case in the best possible light. They can also ensure that all deadlines are met and all required documents are submitted to the SSA. An attorney understands the evidence and testimony that lead to favorable decisions in hearings and appeals, allowing them to build a strong case while you focus on your well-being.

Navigating the challenges of qualifying for SSDI benefits can be overwhelming. Whether you're filing for the first time or appealing a denied claim, having a knowledgeable lawyer by your side can make all the difference. You need an attorney who knows the ins and outs of the SSDI process and will work tirelessly to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve. 

Don't face this challenge alone — let a verified SSDI lawyer in Tennessee provide the support and guidance you need to secure your future. Schedule a no-obligation, free consultation with an attorney in your area today.

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