First and foremost, if you believe you are severely disabled, to the point where you are unable to work, you have a constitutional right to have notice and a hearing before the Social Security Administration can deny your rights to receive benefits.
After filing your initial application and disability report, the first stage of the appeals process involves a reconsideration of the last determination that you are not disabled. Here, another cliams processor at the state disability determination agency will look at your case and any new evidence you wish to submit and make an independent determination as to whether or not you are disabled. Again, if you are denied a second time, then you will have the right to file a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
In order to receive a hearing, you must file your request in person at your local Social Security office or by written request or online. If at all possible, try and file your request for a hearing online. Most importantly, you will receive a confirmation number back by e-mail, letting you know your request was successful. Today, the Administration is overwhelmed by the number of disability claims and those not filed electronically always run the risk of being lost.
Realize you do have a right to representation. At this stage, if you have already been denied twice, you may want to seriously think about hiring a qualified attorney who specializes in Social Security disability law. One of the advantages is that he or she can actually look at your medical records online, and will be able to tell you which records may be missing. Further, since the attorney can look at all medical and non medical evidence, he or she can also counsel you on how strong or weak your case may be. Lastly, Social Security hearings are completely unique. There is not a government attorney arguing on the other side to the judge insisting you are not disabled. However, these hearings are private, given your medical evidence is protected by law, and attorneys who do not practice i this area may not know exactly what the judge may require for your hearing.
Remember, there are time limits at each level of appeal. Sixty days is the cut-off, unless you can show good cause as to why your were not able to appeal your last decision within that time frame. Here, the Social Security Administration is typically pretty understanding, especially if you were too ill or in the hospital to file your appeal, but you do always run the risk of not being allowed to do so and facing the reality of having to start your case back all over again. It is also important to file your appeal as soon as possible because most cases take two years or more to resolve if there has been multiple denials. The quicker you appeal, the quicker your case will come to a resolution.
Find out where your hearing office is. Most, if not all, Social Security hearing offices are located in nontraditional court room and court house settings. Many are located in business office high rises. Finding these hearing locations, especially in a downtown urban area can be difficult. By the way, you should be at your hearing at least 30 minutes ahead of schedule, so this is even a stronger argument for you to find your hearing office before your actual hearing.
If there is new medical evidence to submit before your hearing, make sure it is submitted in time. The rule is that any new medical evidence should be submitted one week before the actual hearing date. This gives the ALJ the opportunity to review your medical file in its entirety and make an informed decision in regards to your disability. Further, this allows you to better prepare to present your case on the day of your hearing.
On the day of your hearing, be sure to present your case without omitting any important points. Make notes about your ailments and condition. Be sure to fully explain how these issues keep you from being able to work. Solid medical evidence and you being thought of as reliable and honest by the judge make a definite winning combination. The importance of your testimony (detailed, honest, respectful) cannot be overvalued.
If all else fails, appeal your denial again to the Appeals Council. If they won't listen, then take your case to federal court. The object is not to give up until you have been approved.