While many Americans are able to work until they retire or pass away, millions of workers must stop working because of a disabling injury, condition or illness. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that helps replace lost income for workers struggling with a disability. Because workers pay into the SSDI fund through FICA withholdings from their wages, it is not a need-based program. Everyone with sufficient work history, based on their age and how many years they have spent working, can potentially qualify. For most people, if you have worked at least five of the past ten years, you should have enough work credits to qualify.

Appealing a denied SSDI claim

However, qualifying for SSDI benefits is not easy. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the program, turns down most initial applications. Fortunately, you have several chances to appeal. The first level of appeal is called reconsideration because an SSA examiner other than the one who reviewed your initial application will consider it.

You can add evidence to your reconsideration documentation, including a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form filled out by a doctor. This form shows the examiner how your condition affects your ability to work in your prior field, and that you are unable to work in any other job either.

If your reconsideration is unsuccessful, the next step is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. After that, you can appeal to a review by the SSA’s Appeals Council. If that review upholds the denial of SSDI benefits, you can appeal to bring your case to federal court.

You might have to wait a while

Due to long waiting lists, appealing a denied SSDI claim can take a long time. Here in Virginia, it can take more than a year before your hearing date comes up. The best way to get approval and avoid unnecessary delays is to retain an attorney experienced with representing SSDI applicants.