You've already Applied for Benefits and are patiently waiting. After about 5 months, you get an official looking letter in the mail. Unfortunately, on the front page it says: "Based on a review of your health problems you do not qualify for benefits on this claim. This is because you are not disabled under our rules." And, you see a section with the heading: "If You Disagree With the Decision" ---  Read it carefully, you will see you only have 60 days to ask for an appeal.

You need to appeal or you just surrendered your rights.

It is extremely important you or your attorney to get that appeal request in on time. There are ways around this deadline, but why cause yourself an additional headache? The appeal request is a relatively simple form that in most cases can be completed and filed online.

If you get your appeal in on time, the next step could be something called a Reconsideration, or it could be a hearing before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge. If it is a Reconsideration, I will work directly with an SSA office worker to make sure they have all the relevant information in their file. Then, someone else will look at the case and see if there were any glaring errors with the first decision.  Usually, however, my experience is that nothing changes, and we get a similar denial letter with the same denial language, and the same 60 days to ask for an appeal.

You need to appeal or you just surrendered your rights.

Now your case is moving toward a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Here, I can really help. This is your only chance to talk directly to a SSA decision maker. This is your best shot at winning your case. This is where the assistance of a skilled attorney is invaluable. The hearing itself is rather informal, but it is crucial to come prepared in what to expect. If you hire me, I will likely have sent the judge a written brief in advance, and will conduct a trial run (or two) with you to get you comfortable with what to expect. The judge will ask you  a set of typical questions and I will have the right to ask you questions that tell your story. The judge will likely then ask questions from a person called a vocational expert (who I will question too). The judge will then issue a written decision. If we win, Great! -- In not, there are a couple options we would need to discuss.

But, unlike some attorneys, if we don't win with the Administrative Law Judge, I will not give up on you. If we lost, there is another 60 days to appeal.

You need to appeal or you just surrendered your rights.

The next level of appeal is to the Social Security Appeals Council. This is a three judge panel in Falls Church, Virginia. All the cases from the entire system go there. This appeal is all in writing, and the appeals council is looking for the most glaring errors. Most cases are upheld. But this is an important step, because once this appeal is done, you have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court. You have 60 days to file such a lawsuit for judicial review. I review all my cases to see if this is something likely to help. Many social security lawyers do not work at this level; I routinely have several cases pending in the federal courts.

Every case is different, and sometimes instead of continuing to appeal, it makes the most sense to just start a new case. This is an important decision I will help you make.

What I hope to get across is that once you are my client, I will never give up on you.