Richmond Social Security Disability Appeal Lawyer: Helping Clients with Virginia SSD Appeals


Each month millions of Americans receive SSDI benefits or SSI. These Social Security disability benefits, which average more than $1,100 per month for disabled workers and more than $700 per month for SSI beneficiaries, help disabled persons and their families survive financially. Without them many disabled persons and families would live in poverty and have difficulty paying for food, shelter, clothing, and medication.


Unfortunately getting approved is difficult. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies more claims than it approves. Sometimes the denial is for technical reasons, such as when a claimant does not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits or too much in assets, resources, or income to qualify for SSI. Other times the denial is for substantive reasons, such as when you do not have sufficient medical evidence to support your claim or when the SSA finds you do not meet its definition of disabled.


Receiving a rejection letter from the SSA is discouraging. But don’t give up. Richmond Social Security Disability appeal lawyer Corey Pollard can help. Call us at 804-251-1620 to discuss your legal rights. By hiring an experienced SSD appeal attorney in Richmond, you increase your likelihood of getting approved and receiving benefits.


Please keep reading to learn more about the Social Security disability appeal process. Then call us. You must act fast. You have only 60 days to appeal your disability denial. If you wait longer you may have to start the process over from the beginning.


Should I File a Social Security Disability Appeal in Richmond, VA?


Not filing a SSD appeal is often the biggest mistake you can make during the Social Security Disability application process.


The SSA’s statistics show why you should consider appealing your SSD denial.


For every 100 people who filed an application for disability insurance benefits, roughly 64 were denied at the initial application level. As you can see, the SSA does not deny every application for benefits. But it denies a lot of them.


Of the 64 disability applicants who were denied, only half filed an SSD appeal requesting reconsideration of the initial denial. The other 32 people did not file an appeal with the SSA.


Of the 32 applicants who requested reconsideration, 29 applicants were denied at the second level of the Social Security Disability appeal process. Only three applicants were approved at reconsideration. This is why we find the reconsideration step to be nothing more than a rubber stamp of the initial denial decision.


Of the 6 applicants who filed a SSD appeal after the reconsideration denial, 4 applicants were approved after an administrative law judge (ALJ) heard their story at a Social Security disability hearing. Many of these approved applicants were represented by a Social Security disability lawyer experienced in SSD appeals.


These numbers suggest that you have a better chance of getting approved for Social Security disability benefits -SSDI or SSI – at the hearing level than at any other level of the disability process. But that doesn’t mean you should just go through the motions at the initial application and reconsideration levels. Hire a Richmond, VA Social Security disability appeal attorney to help you build your case as soon as possible and to preserve all important evidentiary issues. The sooner you’re approved, the better. This is especially true when you do not have adequate income or medical care to survive.


Questions to Ask When Considering a SSD Appeal 


Below are some questions you and your SSD appeal attorney should answer when deciding whether to appeal a Social Security disability denial in Richmond or elsewhere in Virginia:


  • How severe are your medically determinable mental or physical impairments? We recommend reviewing the SSA’s Listing of Medical Impairments for your condition when considering whether to appeal your Social Security case. If you’re close to meeting a listing but had your claim denied, we recommend filing a SSD appeal.


  • How long will your medical impairment last? No matter how bad your physical disability or mental illness is, it must last or be expected to last at least 12 months straight for you to obtain SSDI benefits or SSI. If your condition leaves you bedridden for 9 months, but you recover and are back to work in month 10, you will be denied. If your claim was denied because your injuries have not lasted one year but you expect that your symptoms will continue for more than one year, then we recommend filing a Social Security appeal. By the time the SSA makes a decision at the next level, you will have satisfied the duration requirement.


  • What is your age? The older you are, the better your chance of getting approved for SSDI benefits or SSI. This is especially true if your claim for benefits is based on a physical impairment. Ages 50, 55, and 60 are key ages under the Social Security Act. At these ages the SSA may find you disabled even if there are sedentary or light level jobs you are capable of performing. If your claim was denied and you’ll turn 50, 55, or 60 in the next year, you may be better off filing a new application and not filing an appeal. Make sure you review the disability determination explanation with an experienced Social Security disability appeal lawyer before making this decision.


  • Do you have a good work history? Having a good work history is a double-edged sword in your SSD claim. On the one hand, working consistently for years can boost your credibility. If you have worked for a long time and made good money, the SSA should notice that and see that but for your physical disability or mental disorder, you would have continued working. On the other hand, your strong work history can make it more difficult to win your case if you are alleging disability because of a physical impairment. This is true for two reasons: (1) if you worked in a sedentary job, then it can be more difficult to exclude that work and (2) the SSA may find that you gained transferable job skills from your job, and that these skills can be used to perform jobs at a lower exertional level.


  • How far did you go in school? You will have more difficulty obtaining Social Security Disability benefits if you are highly educated. Those of you with a high school education or above will have more difficulty winning than people who did not finish middle school or high school. If you dropped out of high school but obtained a GED, the SSA will consider you as having a high school education.


  • Why was your SSD claim denied? After reviewing the evidence and forms generated in your SSA file, were any of the decisions plainly wrong? If your physicians stated that you’re capable of working, it doesn’t make sense to file a SSD appeal. If, however, DDS misinterpreted any of the medical or vocational evidence, you may want to appeal the denial of benefits.


  • Are you capable of following through with the SSD appeal and, if not, are you willing to hire a disability attorney? The last thing you want to do is deal with paperwork when you are hurt physically or battling symptoms related to your mental health condition. If you don’t think you’re capable of completing the paperwork, I recommend retaining a disability lawyer. If you’re incapable of navigating the Social Security process but are not willing to hire an attorney, you may not want to file an appeal.


How Can a Richmond Social Security Disability Appeal Lawyer Help Me?


Help from Corey Pollard, a top-rated Social Security disability appeal attorney in Richmond, VA, is just a call, text, or email away.


An experienced Social Security Disability appeal attorney will know the rules, regulations, and laws that govern the Social Security Disability program you have applied for. And will help you develop the medical and vocational evidence needed to prove you have a severe medical impairment that prevents you from working full-time.


There are many reasons why you should hire a disability appeal attorney to help you. Below are just some of the ways that we can help you with your appeal.


Clear Up Confusion: There are countless Social Security rules and regulations. And that’s just the beginning. There are also Social Security and medical terms that you’ll see as you go through the disability appeals process. Instead of trying to figure out what terms like ALJ, CE, AC, DIB, and Title XVI mean on your own, we will explain Social Security law to you and educate you about the process.


Take Away the Hassle: You must read, review, and complete a lot of paperwork to navigate the appeals process successfully. And one mistake can hurt your chance of getting approved. Our attorneys will take care of the paperwork, which saves you time and reduces your stress. The last thing you want to do have to do while battling your symptoms is complete page after page of paperwork. Another advantage is that you can avoid the lines at your local Social Security office or spending hours on hold waiting to talk to a federal government worker when you hire us.


Meet Deadlines and Schedule Hearings: Our disability lawyers will make sure that your appeal satisfies all federal deadlines and procedural requirements. You won’t have to worry about complying with federal rules, because we’ll take care of that. And we’ll continue to follow up with the Social Security Administration to make sure your hearing is scheduled promptly.


Professional Preparation: We’ve handled thousands of Social Security disability appeal hearings. We know the evidence you need to give you the best chance of winning and we know what your specific administrative law judge (ALJ) will ask at the hearing. Though you may be nervous about going in front of the ALJ, we’ll make sure you’re well prepared and ready to explain how your medical conditions impact your quality of life and keep you from working.


An Expert on Call: Our attorneys have researched the Social Security Administration’s guidelines and regulations extensively. We’re familiar with the Blue Book and the requirements of each disability listing. We’ll advise you on how to approach your doctors and medical providers so that we can try to satisfy the SSA’s criteria and develop evidence to overturn your disability denial on appeal.


No Upfront Fees and Costs: We work on a contingency basis, which means we do not get paid a fee unless you get approved for benefits. So there’s no risk to hire a SSD appeal attorney. And our fee is capped by the SSA. Usually it is very small in comparison to the value of your award. Plus, obtaining medical evidence can be expensive. We front all costs associated with developing your case.


The Four Levels of Social Security Disability Appeals


There are four levels of appeal in the Social Security Disability process. The appeal levels are:


  • Request for reconsideration of your claim by Disability Determination Services (DDS);
  • Administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing;
  • Appeals Council review; and,
  • Federal Court review.


The further along you are in the disability appeals process, the more helpful a Social Security Disability appeal attorney may be. If you have any questions or concerns about your claim, call or e-mail us today.


Request for Reconsideration of Initial Application for SSDI and SSI Benefits


If your initial application for disability benefits is denied, you will receive a letter in the mail telling you why. The most important part of the letter is its date. You have 60 days from the date of this letter to request reconsideration of the denial by DDS – which is the name of your appeal at this letter. If you miss the deadline you may have to start over again – which means you’ll lose valuable time.


To request reconsideration and continue your Social Security Disability appeal, you will need to complete several forms. These forms include:


  • Form SSA-561-U2: Request for Reconsideration
  • Form SSA-3441-BK: Disability Report-Appeal; and,
  • Form SSA-827: Authorization for Source to Release Information to the SSA.


Even though you completed a disability report and authorization to release information when you filed your initial application for benefits, you must do so again to finish your request for reconsideration.


How Should I Complete the Request for Reconsideration Form?


Use the SSA’s form when requesting reconsideration of your denial. Make sure that you give the following information when completing the form:


  • Your name and Social Security Number


  • Your claim number, if different from your Social Security Number


  • The reason you are filing your appeal. Keep it short and simple. Write the following – Appealing my denied Social Security Disability claim.


  • Additional reasons you are appealing. State the following: I disagree with the finding that I’m not disabled under the Social Security Act. I do not agree with the finding that I’m capable of performing any past relevant work or other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. This protects your Social Security Disability appeal.


  • Also submit any additional medical evidence, including treating source opinions that you may have. This will help you prove you’re disabled and win your Social Security Disability claim.


What Happens During the Reconsideration Appeal Process?


DDS reviews your claim at the reconsideration level. Yes, the same DDS that denied your initial application. This is part of the reason why so few cases are approved at the reconsideration level.


Reconsideration is supposed to be a complete review of your claim – from top to bottom. A new DDS claims examiner and new medical consultant will review the evidence in your file and make a new determination.


You are allowed – and should – submit updated medical records and reports to DDS while your claim is pending on reconsideration. You should also complete any other forms that DDS sends you, such as those dealing with your pain level and functioning. Talk to a disability lawyer before completing this forms. You don’t want to say something that inadvertently hurts your case.


If DDS denies your claim again, you will receive a notice in the mail. This denial notice is similar to the letter you received when your initial application for benefits was denied. Again, make sure you note the date on the letter.


Many attorneys think that the SSA should do away with the request for reconsideration level. And I’m one of them. Why? Because this level has become nothing more than a rubber stamp for denials of initial applications. In fact, more than 80 percent of claimants who file a request for reconsideration will receive a second denial. Do not let this denial frustrate you. You should expect the denial and move forward promptly with your appeal.


Social Security Disability Appeal to Administrative Law Judge – Request for Hearing before an ALJ


If DDS denies your request for reconsideration and you want to appeal, you must file a request for hearing before an administrative law judge.


As a Richmond SSD appeal attorney, we have greater success at the hearing level because, for the first time, an administrative law judge will see you face to face and hear your testimony about how your disabilities affect your everyday life.


To perfect your appeal at this level, you will need to complete what is known as Form HA-501, a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge. This is a short form with several straightforward questions. Make sure you check the box that asks if you wish to appear at a hearing.


What If I Don’t Want to Attend a Hearing Before an ALJ?


I encourage you to reconsider. A hearing is your best chance of proving your SSDI or SSI claim in my opinion.


If you still don’t want to attend a hearing, you will need to sign a Form SSA-773. That form states:


I have been advised of my right to have a disability hearing. I understand that a hearing will give me an opportunity to present witnesses and explain in detail to the disability hearing officer, who will decide my case, the reasons why my disability benefits should not end. I understand that this opportunity to be seen and heard could be effective in explaining the facts in my case, because the disability hearing officer would give me an opportunity to present and question witnesses and explain how my impairments prevent me from working and restrict my activities. I have been given an explanation of my right to representation, including representation at a hearing by an attorney or other person of my choice.


Although the above has been explained to me, I do not want to appear at a disability hearing, or have someone represent me at a disability hearing. I prefer to have the disability hearing officer decide my case on the evidence of record plus any evidence that I may submit or which may be obtained by the Social Security Administration. I have been advised that if I change my mind, I can request a hearing prior to the writing of a decision in my case. In this event, I can make the request with any Social Security office.


Will the ALJ Hold a Prehearing Conference as Part of the SSD Appeal Process?


Some ALJs will hold a prehearing conference to narrow the issues in your case or to make a quicker decision. I have not had an ALJ request a prehearing conference in any of my clients’ cases in the past four years. So they appear to be out of favor in the Richmond, Norfolk, and Charlottesville ODAR offices.


A prehearing conference may also be held with an attorney advisor. But we don’t see much value in these. Most attorney advisors do not have the authority to grant a case after a rehearing conference, so we’ve found it to be a waste of time in most cases.


Who Schedules the ALJ hearing?


The ALJ’s office, or more specifically, the scheduler for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) where your ALJ is located, will notify you or your representative of your hearing. With the new rules going in place later this year, you will receive at least 75 days notice of the time and place of your hearing.


If you can’t make your hearing due to transportation problems or an important doctor’s appointment, let the ALJ know as soon as possible. His or her telephone number should be listed on your notice of hearing.


Some ALJs make a decision on your case at the hearing. Others take several more months to issue a written decision.


If you win your case, great! You can focus on having your approval processed. If your claim is denied after a hearing, you should learn more about the next step.


Appeals Council Review – The Last Step of the SSD Administrative Appeal Process


When the ALJ denies your claim for SSDI benefits or SSI, you may file a final administrative appeal with the Appeals Council. Recent reports show that more than 150,000 requests for review are filed with the Appeals Council each year.


The Appeals Council’s main office is located in Falls Church, Virginia. The Executive Director of the Office of Appellate Operations, which has more than 1,000 support staff, serves as the Deputy Chair of the Appeals Council. The Deputy Chair is responsible for the Appeals Council’s day to day operations.


Roughly 70 administrative appeals judges and more than 50 appeals officers work within the Appeals Council.


The Appeals Council has three options when it receives your appeal. It can:


  • Deny your request for review and affirm the ALJ’s decision;
  • Reverse the ALJ’s decision and approve your claim for benefits; or,
  • Remand the ALJ’s decision with instructions.


If your case is remanded, you will have another hearing before an ALJ. The Appeals Council’s instructions may tell the ALJ to obtain additional evidence or to change the weight given to certain medical opinions.


Getting the Appeals Council to reverse or remand the ALJ’s denial of your claim is difficult. It requires support from at least two judges. An administrative appeals judge does not have the ability to reverse or remand an ALJ decision single-handedly. For you to win your appeal, at least two administrative appeals judges must think your denial was wrong.


It does not, however, take two administrative appeals judges for you to lose your appeal. A judge may single-handedly deny your appeal.


The Appeals Council process takes time. Usually it takes six to eighteen months for a claimant to receive a written decision from the Appeals Council. This is why it sometimes makes more sense to file a new application for SSDI benefits instead of requesting review by the Appeals Council.


The Last Step of the SSD Appeal Process: Sue the SSA in Federal Court


If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you can file a civil action in U.S. district court. You have 60 days from the date of the Appeals Council’s denial to file suit.


Juries do not hear disability cases. Most federal judges will make a decision based on motions for summary judgment.


We do not recommend filing suit in federal court without the help of a disability attorney. A Social Security Disability appeal at the federal court level requires knowledge of civil procedure.


Why Should I Hire Corey Pollard as My Richmond, Virginia Social Security Disability Appeal Attorney


Corey Pollard has helped more than 1,000 people in Richmond and across Virginia with disabilities. We’ve handled cases for people with every type of medical condition you can think of. And most importantly, we have a strong track record of success in SSDI and SSI appeals. We’ll do everything we can to help you get the benefits you need and deserve.


If you’re looking for a SSD appeal attorney who will help you build and develop your story so that you have the best chance possible of receiving SSDI or SSI benefits, call us. We’re dedicated to helping you navigate the federal disability system. And our Richmond SSD appeals lawyers can help at every level of Social Security appeal: your request for reconsideration by Disability Determination Services (DDS); your hearing before the ALJ; review by the Appeals Council; and, federal court review.


We’ll take the time to get to know you, your family, and what you’ve been through. Our goal is to improve your future.


Call or email us today for a free, no obligation evaluate with a top-rated Social Security appeal lawyer.