Nashville Social Security Disability Denials and Appeals

Representing clients throughout the denial, appeals and hearing process to attain disability benefits throughout Tennessee

When you send in your application for Social Security Disability benefits, the odds are stacked against your being approved. Only about 25% of SSDI applications are approved at the initial application stage, but do not be discouraged because your odds increase significantly in the appeals stage of the process.

Your Social Security Disability claim has been denied. Now what?

Once your initial application for disability benefits has been denied, there is a four-step appeals process and you have 60 days from the date of your denial to request an appeal:


Reconsideration is almost like getting a second opinion from a doctor. Your claim is reviewed by someone who did not have a part in denying your initial application. They will review the evidence you submitted along with any new evidence. Only a small percentage of reconsiderations are approved, but the denial letter will explain their reasons for denying your claim again.

Appeal hearing with an Administrative law judge

In most cases, the hearing will take place in person and before a judge who had no part in your initial application and at a location within 75 miles of your home. Again, you have 60 days in which to request a hearing. An appeal hearing before an ALJ has about a 50 percent chance of being approved.

Appeals council

This is the next level of appeal if your application is not approved in the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge. The appeals council may deny a request for review if it believes that the hearing decision was correct according to SSA laws and regulations. The appeals council can choose to review your case or send it to another ALJ for another review.

Federal court review

If the outcome of the appeals council is not favorable for you, your final remedy and the last level of the appeals process is to appeal your disability case is to file a civil suit in federal district court.

How to prepare for your SSD hearing

As you prepare for your appeal hearing with the Administrative Law Judge, this is one of those times when you will feel fortunate to have the services of an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer at your disposal because their support will be invaluable to you now. You're in a place where after waiting so long to hear whether your application for benefits was accepted, you received a denial. The good news is, that your chances of getting approved have statistically been doubled. What is important now is that you spend time preparing as compelling a case as possible, meeting with your attorney and becoming thoroughly familiar with the facts of your case so that you can comfortably answer the questions that the ALJ asks, and so that you can be an effective advocate for yourself.

Here are a few things to think about and do to prepare for your disability hearing:

  • While a disability hearing is not as formal as a court hearing, you will be under oath. It goes without saying that your answers must be truthful and accurate.
  • Be prepared to give specific answers rather than vague generalities.
  • The ALJ will ask you questions about your education, your work history and your health. Be prepared with clear answers.
  • The judge wants to get a clear idea from you how your medical issues impact your ability to work. You must be able to describe your limitations regarding how long you can stand or sit, how much you can lift, how far you can walk, and any other limitations that affect your ability to work an eight-hour day and a 40-hour week.
  • Make a detailed list of all the jobs you have had for the past 15 years, what work you did, the physical and requirements for each of those jobs.
  • Also be prepared to describe how your physical or mental disability interferes with your personal life at home, the activities that you can no longer participate in, and how you feel from day to day.
  • You will have to share a list of the medications you take for your medical condition and any other treatments you are undergoing.

Take the time to practice having someone ask these questions and you being able to give well thought out, accurate responses. The hearing will be recorded, so you want to speak up and speak clearly so that everything you say will be understood. You cannot nod your head indicating yes or no while looking at the judge because that will not be recorded. Work with your experienced Nashville disability lawyer to support you in preparing for the hearing and representing you throughout the entire process.

What can you expect at an SSD hearing?

It's normal to feel a little nervous when you know you have to appear before a judge and talk about yourself, but with good preparation and your Nashville disability lawyer by your side, you should feel confident about your chances. The hearing itself will likely be held in a Social Security office hearing room. If you are unable to travel, sometimes arrangements can be made for the hearing to take place by video conference.

You are not required to wear a dress or a suit and tie, but you want to be clean and presentable in your appearance. In attendance will be the judge and a court reporter and a vocational expert. Your attorney will be there with you along with a witness which may accompany you.

The Administrative Law Judge will ask you many questions, which your attorney will prepare you to answer. The Vocational Expert will dialogue with your lawyer and the judge to try to determine how your limitations will affect the types of jobs you can handle if any.

How can a Social Security Disability attorney help my disability appeal?

If you are disabled enough to qualify for disability benefits, and you need the income those benefits provide to keep your household afloat, the stakes are high. Having a Nashville SSD lawyer on your side will help increase your chances of getting approved on appeal. Your lawyer is trained to present a compelling case on your behalf, they know who makes a good witness, and they have a thorough understanding of the operations of the Social Security Administration. Having an advocate in your corner is going to feel so much better than trying to fight for your right to the disability benefits you have paid for on you own.

How does my SSD lawyer get paid?

Your SSD lawyer is required by federal law to take cases on contingency. This means that you can get trusted legal representation without paying for it first. Federal law also limits what your lawyer can charge to no more than 25% of the back pay you will receive once your application is approved, or $6,000 whichever is lowest.

Moving through the Social Security Disability process can be challenging, nail-biting. There is a lot of waiting and wondering about the outcome and it feels completely out of your control. What you can control is choosing to work with an experienced Nashville SSD lawyer. Not only does it increase your chances of getting approved, sometimes your lawyer can help to speed up the process of getting an answer. An SSD lawyer's strengths are guiding you through the process, making sure that you have enough supporting documentation and the right medical evidence so that the SSA can make an informed decision about your case.

Schedule a free consultation with the Tennessee Social Security Disability Attorneys you know and trust

Was your application for SSDI benefits denied? Let our trusted Nashville Social Security Disability lawyers guide you through the appeals and hearings process. Call the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm at 615-425-2500 or contact us today, and schedule your free consultation. We maintain offices in Nashville and Hendersonville for your convenience.

Learn More About Social Security Disability in Tennessee:
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Common Mistakes on Social Security Disability Applications

Can My Child Get Social Security Disability Benefits If I Am Disabled?

Can I Get My Social Security Disability Benefits with a Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis?