What is a Social Security Disability Lawsuit?
Social security disability is a monetary benefit you may receive if your disability prevents you from working and earning an income for at least a year. There are requirements to meet before being approved for benefits, including the degree of disability and your years of working and paying into social security.
If the SSA rejects your application for benefits, you can appeal. This is a multi-step process that allows you to refute the denied benefits through a few different avenues. When something goes wrong in the process, you may need to file a social security disability lawsuit. It’s not typical, but there are a few situations that warrant stronger legal action:
- If you keep getting denied in the appeals process, your final step is to take your case to a federal court, essentially filing a lawsuit against the SSA for your benefits.
- You may feel you have been mistreated by the SSA, in which case you can file a complaint, which is not a lawsuit but is a legal action you can take to redress the wrong.
- Sometimes, groups of people may file a class-action lawsuit against the SSA for unfair denial of benefits. If you belong to a group that qualifies, you may join a class action suit.
Class Action Social Security Disability Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits against the SSA occur when more than one person has had their benefits denied for a similar, flawed reason. For example, in 2015, three plaintiffs filed a suit alleging that the SSA relied on a disqualified doctor’s reports to deny their benefits.
The SSA had previously disqualified the doctor. His reports were deficient, based on short examinations of the plaintiffs and disregarding their other medical records. He also referred to medical tests in his reports that he never conducted. The SSA terminated benefits based on these faulty medical reports, according to the lawsuit.
Should I Appeal a Social Security Disability Decision?
When the SSA denies a disability claim, they are making the decision that you are not eligible. You can accept that decision or refute it if you believe the SSA made it in error. The SSA may also decide to end the benefits you currently receive. You have a right to appeal a denial or any changes to your benefits.
The appeals process can be lengthy. It’s important to determine if you really do qualify and if it’s likely the SSA made a mistake before starting the process. A social security disability lawyer is the best person to help you decide. They’ll look at a few of the factors that the SSA considers when approving or denying claims:
- Your disability must be on the list of the SSA-approved conditions.
- Your disability must be severe enough to prevent you from doing your job or retraining for a different job.
- The disability must be expected to last for a year or more. A medical expert opinion is important here.
- Your age matters. The older you are, the more likely you are to get approved, especially with less severe disabilities.
- If you are highly educated, your chances of getting approved are lower. This is because you are more likely to be qualified for a desk job.
- Work experience also matters. With more experience in varied fields, your ability to do a new job is higher, and your chances of receiving benefits lower.
Ultimately, you must decide if it is in your best interest to appeal a denial or change in benefits. Can you do some type of work? And would you rather do that work than receive benefits? The decision is yours.
What Are the Steps in an SSDI Appeal?
If you decide to appeal, be aware that it may take several steps to get approval. Or, you may never get approved, even after months of effort. You have a better chance of success if you work with an experienced social security disability lawyer.
When the SSA denies a claim, they send a letter explaining the decision. This allows you to work with your lawyer to refute the reasons cited. For instance, if the SSA claims your disability is not severe enough, more medical evaluations can help prove that it is.
There are several steps in the appeals process for social security disability:
- Request an appeal in writing.
The first step is to request an appeal. You must do this in writing and within 60 days of receipt of the denial letter. You can find the form online and submit it that way.
Once it has received your appeal request, the SSA will assign someone to review your entire claim. This will be someone who did not work on your claim previously. You do not have to meet with the SSA for an appeal of an initial claim. You may need to go into the office for an appeal of a decision that you are no longer eligible for benefits because of an improvement in your condition.
If the reconsideration results in another denial, you may request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. You may have to submit more information before the hearing. It is especially helpful to have a lawyer at this stage. They will get evidence ready and prepare you for the hearing.
- Appeals Council.
You can take a rejection from the hearing onto the Appeals Council. The Council may grant a review but may also deny it if it believes the hearing decision was correct. It can also send your case back to the hearing stage.
- Federal Court.
The final step is to take the SSA to court at the federal level. This is a social security disability lawsuit. Your lawyer will represent you and try to prove that you are eligible for benefits.
Filing an Unfair Treatment Complaint
Another type of action you can take against the SSA is an unfair treatment complaint. The SSA strives to treat all claimants equally and fairly through the application and appeals process. If you believe they have not, you can file this complaint. This is not an appeal, and it is not for mistakes in the process. It is strictly for discrimination and other unfair treatment.
A social security disability lawsuit is the last step in the process of attempting to receive benefits. You likely won’t reach that stage, but you can take many other actions with the assistance of an experienced lawyer.