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How to Write a Disability Appeal Letter

Disability Appeal Letter

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More often than not, disability applicants will receive at least one denial letter.  Most people, in fact, receive two.  If you are denied, try not to be discouraged and vow to continue fighting.  Although the Social Security Administration (SSA or the Administration) does not always get it right, claimant’s that are truly disabled almost always win in the end.

When to File a Disability Appeal

The most important part of the appeals process is to ensure that you file your appeal on time with a disability appeal letter.  Generally speaking, you have 60 days from the date you receive the denial to make an appeal.  The SSA assumes that you received the appeal 5 days after the date on your denial.  Said another way, you have 65 days from the date on your denial.  If you are able to show that your denial took more than 5 days to arrive at your residence, you will be given 60 days after actual receipt of the denial to file your appeal.

If you fail to appeal your denial within the 60-day time limit, you could lose your right to appeal.  If you lose your right, the prior decision will be the Administration’s final decision.

If you have good reason for not making a timely appeal, the Administration may give you additional time.  You will need to make a request for more time and explain to the Administration your reasons.  The likelihood of getting more time is entirely dependent on your reasoning and any supporting documentation you are able to include in your request.

As an aside, if the last day to appeal falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a national holiday, the time limit extends to the next workday.

How to File an Appeal

In the event you receive an unfavorable determination, you need to make your appeal in writing.  You can make a Request for Reconsideration or make a Request for a Hearing by an ALJ online

In my experience, making your appeal online is the fastest and most convenient way.

You can start the process whenever you want and can pause and restart the process at your own convenience.  You may also call 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office to request the appeal forms.  For your convenience, links to the actual forms are included below.

Request for Reconsideration

The first appeal is called a “Request for Reconsideration”.  This appeal occurs if your initial application is denied.  In order to make a Request for Reconsideration, you must fill out three forms which can be completed online or in paper form.

  1. Request for Reconsideration
  2. Disability Report – This allows you to update your medical information
  3. Authorization to Disclose Information to the SSA – This allows the SSA to obtain any additional medical evidence.

Request for a Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge

The second appeal is a request to have your claim heard by an Administrative Law Judge.  This appeal occurs if your Request for Reconsideration is denied.  There are three forms that need completed for this appeal as well.  

  1. Request for Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge 
  2. Disability Report – This allows you to update your medical information
  3. Authorization to Disclose Information to the SSA – This allows the SSA to obtain any additional medical evidence.

At each level the SSA provides you with three lines to explain why you disagree with the SSA’s determination.  Specifically, the Request for Reconsideration form and the Request for Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge form have these areas.  It is probably obvious that any well thought out response will take more than three lines.  You are able to simply write “See Attached” and include a Disability Appeal Letter.

Write disability appeal letter

Disability Appeal Letter

If you elect to attach a disability appeal letter, you need to include your name and your claim number at the top.  This will ensure that the letter makes its way into your file even if it becomes detached from your application.

Prior to writing your letter, you should read the denial.  Although it is unlikely that your denial will be very detailed, you will be able to dig out certain facts from it.  Specifically:

  • It will list your “severe ailments”, which are the ailments that the SSA evaluated;
  • It will list all of the medical records that were reviewed in making the decision; and
  • It will state the reason for the denial, likely stating something about you being able to perform work or being able to perform your past work.

Request for Reconsideration

In the request for reconsideration appeal, the most important thing you can do is point out missing evidence.  You need to ensure that the decisionmaker had every relevant piece of evidence at his or her disposal when the decision was made.  In your initial application, you were asked to make a list of all of your medical providers.

Make sure that the providers listed in your decision matches exactly with the list your provided in your application.  If something is missing, you should point it out in your Disability Appeal Letter.  Also, if you forgot a provider, you should include it in this letter.  You could also call your medical provider and ask why the SSA did not receive it as some providers fail to respond to medical record requests.  In some instances, you could even go so far as getting those records yourself and including them with your letter.

I think the second most important thing you can do is point out any of your ailments that were not considered.  I suspect that any missing ailments will be included in missing medical records, but you should point them out anyway.

Lastly, if your medical provider will fill out an RFC, you should include that with your letter.  RFCs should be completed at all levels of the application process, the earlier they are included and the more often they are updated, the better.

Request for a Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge

In the request for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge appeal, you should really consider hiring an attorney if you have not yet.  If you are electing to go it alone, you should repeat the process listed above, but you need to know that at this stage you are going to be responsible for obtaining all of the outstanding medical evidence that is relevant to your disability claim.  Pointing it out in your appeal likely will not have much of an impact on the outcome of your hearing.  

It will; however, alert you about any evidence that was missing at the Request for Reconsideration level.  This will help you ensure that it is available for the administrative hearing.  Further, if it were me, I would save my energy and effort by not writing an Appeal Letter at this stage.  I would instead write an argument for disability at least a week prior to my actual hearing.  Waiting will ensure that my argument contains the most recent and up to date evidence as updating the medical evidence should be an action performed prior to the actual hearing.

Sample Disability Appeal Letter

[DATE]

>Social Security Administration
Attn: Disability Appeals Department
[Street Address] [City, State, ZIP]

Re: [Name, Claim Number]

Dear sir or mam:

I am in receipt of a letter denying my application for disability.  Please accept this letter requesting that your decision on my application be reconsidered.

Of particular note, the following medical evidence was not considered in your decision:

[Provider name] [Street Address] [City, State, Zip] [Phone] [Fax] [Dates of Treatment]

Additionally, please be aware of the following symptoms that would prohibit me from engaging in substantial gainful employment.  [A list of symptoms and a brief statement as to how those symptoms would impair your ability to work]

Also, please find attached the following additional medical evidence. [Include any missing or additional evidence, including, but not limited to any not yet submitted RFCs]

Lastly, I would like it to be known that I am prepared to fully cooperate in any testing or interviews to help substantiate my claim.

Thank you for your time,

[Name]

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August 3, 2022

Written by TC Newlin

TC is a disability litigator and one of the managing partners in the Social Security Disability Department at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin. He has had the pleasure of helping thousands of people obtain the benefits they so desperately need.

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