Social Security tax is collected from workers throughout their working years. It is meant to be there for you when you reach retirement age or if you become disabled and can no longer work. Those who have spent many years working, but cannot do so due to a disability have a chance at receiving Social Security Disability (SSD). If they are approved, they will be able to receive a monthly benefit based on how much money they have earned in their lifetime. However, getting approved after an initial application is rare. Most will need to file an appeal with the SSD Appeals Council located in Falls Church, VA. This process is also an uphill battle, that usually requires professional legal representation in order to achieve.
What is the SSD Appeals Council?
The Appeals Council was formed in 1940 and originally was made up of three people who would oversee Social Security Disability hearings and appeals. Their job was to make sure that the records provided in an appeal were consistent and correct and ready for judicial review. Today’s Appeals Council is much larger. There are over 70 Administrative Appeals Judges, more than 40 Appeals Officers, and hundreds of support staff. There are also additional Appeals Council Offices located near the Falls Church location in Crystal City, VA and Baltimore, MD. Individual cases are usually first considered in the applicant’s home state or region. The extra staff and offices are needed to meet the large demand. In the 2014 fiscal year, more than 155,000 SSD reviews were requested. In most cases, the Council’s decision to grant or deny a request is final.
The Appeals Council’s Role in Social Security
The United State Social Security Administration has many different functions and offices. One of these is the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO), which is included in the larger Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The OAO supports the Appeals Council with both professional and clerical staff. Not only do they hear and review cases from those who were denied Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, but they also pull together evidence when their own decisions are challenged in Federal Court through civil action against the Commissioner of Social Security.
The Appeals Council is the core component of the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO), one part of SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. OAO provides professional and clerical support for the Appeals Council. OAO also maintains and controls files in cases decided adversely to claimants by administrative law judges and the Appeals Council, in case a further administrative or court appeal is filed. When a claimant brings a civil action against the Commissioner of Social Security, seeking judicial review of SSA’s final decision, OAO staff prepare the record of the claim for filing with the court.
The Importance of the Process
Whether a person is applying for Social Security, or appealing their denial of aid, there are specific procedures that need to be adhered to in order to give the applicant the best chance of success. This starts with the initial application, and gathering all the necessary evidence that there is a qualifying disability, and that the person requesting the benefit is doing so because of a true inability to work.
The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. The value of work credits changes, but is based on dollars earned. In 2016, one credit was approximately $1200.
Lists are maintained of qualifying disabilities for both adults and children. The adult listings include conditions such as various cancers, mental conditions, cardiovascular disorders, and immune system disorders, among others. Qualifying is not a simple game of match game. The Social Security Administration must also agree that the disability is total and that it prevents the applicant from working in the capacity that they once did or adjust to other work for medical reasons. They need to determine that the disability has lasted or will last at least a year, or is expected to be fatal.
Filing an Appeal
Because Social Security has a stricter definition of disability than others, most people need to appeal their initial denial before they are accepted. If they decide to do this, it is important to move fast. The appeal needs to be filed within 60 days of the denial, and give reasons why that decision should be overturned. Filing late can result in the Appeals Council refusing to hear the case. Even in the best circumstances, the process is long, and decisions are not usually made for approximately a year.
Contact Mark Schneider
This is all a very stressful experience for anyone to go through, especially someone who has a serious medical condition. Getting legal help to guide you through the initial process and any appeals can give SSD applicants a fighting chance they may not have alone. Mark Schneider helps clients in the Northern New York Counties of Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, to appeal their Social Security disability applications. Wherever you are in the process, we are here to help. Please contact us to get the help you need.