What started as an annoying tingling sensation in the hand and fingers has morphed into acute pain that makes it difficult to hold a steady job.
Severe carpal tunnel symptoms can keep patients out of work for weeks, if not months on end.
The best way to recoup the money lost because of medical bills and downtime from work is to submit a disability claim with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Unfortunately, the SSA denies a majority of disability applications.
If the SSA denied your disability claim for carpal tunnel, you should file an appeal to request compensation for your injury.
The appeals process follows four sequentially ordered steps.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing
- Review by the Appeals Council
- Hearing in a Federal District Court
Step #1: Reconsideration
If the SSA denied your Social Security Disability (SSD) application, you do not want to start over by filing a new application.
As the first step in the appeals process, reconsideration allows you to expedite the ruling on your SSD claim by allowing the SSA to use the same information the agency used to evaluate your first claim.
However, you should include more supporting documentation to strengthen your case.
Although the SSA denies a majority of SSD reconsiderations, the percentage of denials is lower than the percentage of denials for initial claims.
Step #2: Hearing in Front of an Administrative Law Judge
If the SSA denies your reconsideration of the initial SSD claim, you should move on to step two of the appeals process.
An ALJ hearing gives you the opportunity to make your case in front of an administrative law judge.
The judge reviews your initial application and supporting documentation, as well the oral statements you make in court, before issuing a decision that is independently made from the SSA.
Before your ALJ hearing, meet with a Social Security lawyer to determine how you can bolster your claim.
Step #3: Appeals Council Review
As a department within the SSA, the Appeals Council reviews the decisions made by the SSA and ALJ.
Since the council operates as part of the SSA, it is difficult to reverse a denied claim.
To make matters more difficult, all communication exchanged during step three of the appeals process is done in written form.
This means you cannot argue your case in front of council members.
Step #4: Take Your Claim to a Federal District Court
Filing an SSD claim denial appeal in a Federal District Court gets the ALJ back into your case.
A Federal District Court judge reviews the decision issued by the ALJ.
The SSA has its Office of General Council (OCG) to process a summons if the federal District Court judge decides to get the SSA involved in the case as well.
If the Federal District Court judge rules that the ALJ made one or more mistakes in issuing a ruling, then the judge can send your appeal back to the ALJ for further review.
Contact a Social Security Attorney
A Social Security lawyer can help boost your SSD claim by collecting more convincing evidence, especially when it comes to medical documentation.
Your attorney is also an advocate for you in front of an ALJ.
Schedule a free initial consultation with a Social Security lawyer to determine how to proceed with your appeal.
Most lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means they get paid when clients receive approval for SSD benefits.