Social Security Disability Attorney in St. Petersburg, FL

If your claim is denied, you will be sent a Notice of Disapproved Claim explaining in general terms why your claim was denied. In that Notice of Disapproved Claim you will be informed that you may request a reconsideration of the denial of benefits by submitting a Request for Reconsideration within 60 days of your receipt of the Notice of Denial. Upon requesting reconsideration any new information will be sent to the DDD where a new claims examiner will review your file and make a new determination. At least 90% of requests for reconsideration result in further denial of benefits.
Upon denial of your request for reconsideration you will again be sent a Notice of Reconsideration explaining generally the basis for the denial and you will be notified that you have a right to appeal the denial of your claim by requesting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Your request for an ALJ hearing must be filed within 60 days of receipt of Notice of Denial of your request for reconsideration. It is not possible to over-emphasize the importance of requesting a hearing with the ALJ!! Do not be discouraged!! Approximately 50% of the claims that are taken to an ALJ hearing result in the payment of benefits.
You can presently expect to receive a hearing within 12 months of your request. At your hearing the ALJ is required to evaluate your claim in accordance with SSA rules and regulations and is required to make an entirely new and independent determination of your claim. The ALJ is required to conduct a 5 step sequential evaluation of your claim in the following manner:

  • Step 1. Is the claimant currently engaged in substantial gainful activity (earning more than $1,070 per month)? If yes, the claim is denied.

  • Step 2. Does the claimant have a “severe impairment(s)” which has lasted or is expected to last for 12 consecutive months? A “severe impairment” is any medically determinable impairment that affects basic work-related activities. It is not difficult to meet this test.

  • Step 3. Does the claimant have one or more impairments that meet or equal the Listing of Impairments promulgated by SSA? SSA’s Listing of Impairments describes a large number of medical diseases and conditions along with the medical findings and criteria that must be met to be considered disabled. If your impairment meets or equals one or more of such listings, you are considered disabled without any further consideration of your ability to work. Unfortunately, it is difficult to meet the criteria in the listings. Only 20% of those receiving disability benefits have impairments that meet the Listings.

  • Step 4. Is the claimant capable of performing his “past relevant work”? “Past relevant work” is considered to be those occupations you have performed over the past 15 years. If you have the residual functional capacity to perform any of your previous occupations, you are not disabled.

  • Step 5. Does the claimant have the ability to perform other work that exists in the national economy, considering the claimant’s residual functional capacity, age, education, and previous work experience? Most appeals present claims that must be determined at this step. To make this determination the ALJ will require the attendance of a vocational expert (VE) at your hearing who will listen to the evidence and provide the judge with his opinions respecting (1) the type and character of jobs, if any, that are within your residual functional capacity, (2) the numbers of such jobs that exist within the region of the country where you live or several regions of the country, (3) the extent to which the occupational base for such work is limited by your impairments, and (4) the presence or absence of job skills necessary for such work as you may be considered physically capable of performing.
Following your hearing the ALJ will issue a written decision either awarding or denying benefits. The ALJ’s decision will review the evidence presented, present the judge’s findings of fact and conclusions, and the basis for the decision. If the ALJ denies your claim you may ask the Appeals Council to review the ALJ’s decision. The request for review must be filed within 60 days of receipt of the ALJ’s decision. The decision of the Appeals Council represents SSA’s final action on your claim. If no review is either requested or provided by the Appeals Council, the ALJ’s decision becomes the final agency action on your claim.
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Barry M Salzman, Attorney at Law, Attorneys, St Petersburg, FL