When you receive a denial letter from Social Security, the most important thing to do is to appeal that denial within 60 days.
There are many reasons why an initial claim gets denied, and many denials have nothing to do with the merit of your disability claim. Further, the explanation provided in the denial letter is often wrong. And sometimes there is no logical reason for a denied claim.
By appealing, you will ultimately have a hearing with a U.S. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The hearing level is your best chance to have your claim for disability benefits granted.
A common mistake made by claimants is that, instead of appealing a denied claim, they reapply later. Then they are denied again. Do not make that mistake! Improve your chances of receiving benefits by getting some help and appealing your denied claim, rather than reapplying for benefits later.
Social Security maintains records that show the number of disability claims are decided at the various levels. The chart below shows the statistics from 2009.
There is a lesson in these statistics: many claimants do not appeal their initial denial of benefits.
The chart shows that in 2009 there were 2,686,152 initial claims, but only 582,992 Reconsideration determinations. Ten states, including New Hampshire, don’t have the intermediate Reconsideration step, so you can’t exactly compare those two sets of figures. Nevertheless, it is clear from these statistics that many Social Security disability claimants did not appeal the initial denial of their claim.
The chart also demonstrates that the likelihood of receiving benefits increases if you appeal your claim.
The top row shows that 37% of the disability and SSI initial applications were granted nationwide. 63% were denied. These are national statistics, but the allowance rate in Maine is almost identical.
The second row shows that, of the denied claims that were appealed, 86% were denied again at the Reconsideration level.
But look at what happens at the hearing level (row 3). 63% of the claims are allowed. So if you appeal your denied claim to the hearing level, your chances of approval rise dramatically. The statistics prove it.
Here is the complete 2009 Waterfall Chart, showing the Appeals Council and federal court decisions, too.