How to Write to the Disability Appeals Council
How do you write disability appeals? Is it the same as a disability appeal letter? Yes, they are the same. And, a denied Maryland Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) claim may lead to this step, depending on how far you pursue an appeal.
The SSDI process proves confusing enough with the fill-in-the-blank applications and documentation gathering. But, if you need to write disability appeals, it takes the complexities to a new level. Of course, you retain the right to draft the letter on your own. But, the insight of a disability representative clears the confusion.
But, let us break it down for you today.
What is the Social Security Appeals Council?
The complex SSDI benefits process does not always feel like the Social Security Administration (SSA) is on your side. However, the SSA wants you to get the benefits you deserve. Many safeguards are built into the process, including several appeal options.
If denied initially, you may file a request for reconsideration and then, a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). But, there’s more. The Social Security Appeals Council (AC) reviews your case, if denied by the ALJ. This stage requires that you write a disability appeals letter or a brief.
A team of ALJs comprise the Appeals Council. This team looks for legal and factual errors made earlier in your case. They ensure impartiality and judgments which fall within the SSA’s policies and regulations. In short, the Appeals Council works toward a fair decision.
The Council makes one of three decisions. One, they return the case to a new ALJ and ask for another hearing. Two, they uphold the decision of the ALJ. Or, finally, they reverse the ruling of the ALJ. All three fall within their authority.
How Do I Write a Disability Appeals Letter?
A note: Remember that throughout the SSDI appeals process, you are not alone. Using the resources at your disposal increases the chance of a favorable decision. When writing your disability appeals brief, use a sample disability appeals letter for reference or consult a Social Security attorney.
What an Appeals Brief Is
To receive an Appeals Council review, you must submit a brief no more than 60 days after your notice of denial. If you miss the deadline, you must start the application process over. Yes, your time on the original claim is wasted. The SSA makes rare to no exceptions to this policy.
The brief or letter-like document explains why you contest the decision of the ALJ. It details the errors you find in the decisions made thus far. It also gives opportunity to explain why you believe you deserve benefits. Again, stating significant legal and factual errors with the evidence to support them furthers your case over emotional arguments.
The Structure of the Letter
The structure of the document is also important. Write the brief as you would a letter. Respectful, clear and concise wording allies you with the Appeals Council members.
The Heading: Begin with a formal opening such as “Dear Appeals Council Member”. Including your name, date of birth, Social Security number and claim number in the heading clearly identifies the case. It helps reconnect your letter and case should they become separated.
The Body: Your arguments and evidence make up the body of the letter. Thoroughly reading your explanation of determination (denial letter) gives you an accurate picture of the factors the SSA considered and their reasons for denial. It includes:
- A medical condition description
- The impairments evaluated
- Any medical and non medical sources used in the evaluation
- And, the reasons for denial
Using this information, craft a well-supported argument. Missing documentation, inaccurate medical descriptions or mistakes in education or work history give you reason to appeal. Look for evidence of these issues in the explanation of determination.
Referencing these specific exhibits with page numbers allows the AC to follow your trail of evidence. Furthermore, gather and submit documentation to support your points and strengthen your claim. Send:
- Medical records not listed as considered (even if you already submitted them)
- New medical records which indicate a change in your condition
- Medical doctor statements
- Any new test results
- Other documents which support your claim
The Closing: Finish the appeals letter with a respectful closing and your signature. In total, an average brief runs between three and four pages. This length provides ample opportunity to present a concise, well-supported appeal.
What if I am Overwhelmed?
The SSDI appeals process and writing an appeals brief leaves many a claimant overwhelmed. As mentioned, a sample disability appeals letter gives you an example to follow. However, attorneys specializing in SSDI cases offer the most support. These experienced professionals know what to look for in the explanation of determination and the evidence needed to get a denial reversed.
Contact us today for a free case review.