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Welcome to the Before You Appeal video.

In this video we will cover three important things you must know when filing your disability appeal. The goal is for you to understand each stage of the process, what you can expect and how long the process will take.

Although the individual claim and processing times vary from state to state we will cover how long it will take on average for Social Security to process your claim.

Next we’ll go over the Appeal Checklist and explain how this document will help you successfully organize the information you’ll need to file your claim.

The last topic we cover in this video is your mindset. You may not realize it but the way you think about your disability and the way you answer Social Security’s questions directly affects the outcome of your claim. We’ll share specific examples of how your mindset affects your appeal which will help you answer the questions in the best way possible.

Please watch the entire video before you begin your appeal. This information is very important and will make a real difference in how Social Security views your appeal and whether it gets approved or denied.

Let’s get started!

The first thing you’ll need to do is print out the Appeal checklist.

Before You Request A Hearing, RepresentMyselfUnder this video there is a link to the checklist. This form can also be found in the forms section of Pause this video now and click on the link. Once it is open, print the page and then come back and press play to resume this video.


The Appeal checklist will help you organize the documents Social Security requires you to complete when filing your appeal.

As you collect each item on the list, check it off and place the papers in a folder you create called Disability Documents. You will need all this information in order to complete your online appeal so make sure you file these documents together.

It’s important for you to understand how long each stage of the disability process will take. So let’s go over each step and what will happen at Social Security.

There are three main levels:

The Initial level which is your application, the Reconsideration level which is your first appeal, and the Hearing level which is your second appeal.

When you first apply for Social Security Disability Benefits it’s called the Initial Application.

Once you file your claim online it is received and processed by your local branch office. Then the file is sent to the Disability Determination Services Office (DDS). DDS reviews your file and requests your medical records based on the information on your application.

If DDS doesn’t have enough information from your medical records to make a decision, or if they feel they need more details, a Consultative Exam or CE, as it is called by Social Security, may be scheduled. A CE is an appointment with a doctor Social Security chooses to evaluate you. The doctor will send them a report based on their review of you along with any medical records they may have access to.

When the file is complete and all of the available medical evidence has been processed, a Medical Examiner will then make a decision. DDS sends the file back to the local branch office and the decision is sent to you. Generally it takes about 4-6 months to receive a decision at this level and it is estimated that 70% of the people who apply are denied.

If you’re denied the next step is to appeal for Reconsideration.

Once the Reconsideration appeal has been filed, the file is again sent to DDS for a decision. They review the information to determine if anything was overlooked and also to gather any new or additional evidence. They will then request that a different Medical Examiner make the decision. This step takes approximately 3-5 months and the estimated denial rate at this level is 90%.

Next is the Hearing stage.

Before You Request A Hearing, RepresentMyselfOnce you have filed your Request for a Hearing, your file is then sent to the local Hearing office which is called the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, ODAR (THIS NOTE IS FOR MARK, NOT TO BE READ: ODAR should be said as a word, not an acronym). After several months a hearing is scheduled and you will need to appear before an Administrative Law Judge. The Judge will make a decision based on medical records and testimonies from any expert witnesses. The decision is then sent to you and your file is sent back to the local branch office.

This process takes 6-18 months, longer in some states, but has the highest success rate. Over 50% of the cases that go before a judge end favorably with the judge granting benefits. Using the tools we’ve supplied you with in will significantly increase your chances of approval when you go before a judge.

If the judge denies your claim the next appeal is to the Social Security Disability Appeals Council and then to the Federal District Court.

Now that you understand the process of filing your claim here is what you really much know which will greatly influence the outcome of your appeal.

Whether you’re filing your application or an appeal, going to a doctor’s appointment or standing before a judge at a hearing you must always answer the questions you are asked in the best way possible. The answers you choose to give Social Security present a picture of your disability and they’ll make a real difference in how they view and process your appeal.

The opposite of a job interview.

Remember you are filing your appeal for disability benefits which means you are telling Social Security that you are disabled.  If you’ve ever been to a job interview, you know that you’re supposed to put your best foot forward and present yourself as a very capable and competent person.  Well, this is not a job interview, it’s a disability interview. You need to talk about the medical problems that keep you from working.

Let’s imagine for a minute that you suffer from severe back problems.

We like to use back injuries in a lot of our examples because there are so many different types of questions a judge can ask to find out if your back is really as bad as you say. When you are in a hearing and the judge asks you, “who does your laundry?”  Don’t say, “Well I do!” without elaborating. The judge knows that in order for you to do your laundry, you have to bend over the washing machine and put in loads of clothing.  Once the load is washed, you have to pick up the wet and heavy clothes and bend over and throw them into the dryer.  Remember this is the opposite of a job interview.  When you answer this type of question in front of the judge or on any Social Security interview or form, focus on the things you can’t do.  Instead, answer the question fully and truthfully by saying, “I really can’t do the laundry without help. It’s too difficult to bend over to put in and take out the clothes and If I were to try and do a load, my back would be hurt really badly for the rest of the day.”

Do you see how we took a positive question the judge asked and turned it into a negative answer.  Everything that we said was absolutely true, but it focused on the negative things; or in other words, the things you can’t do.

Focus on a bad day.

Think about the last time you had a really bad day. Think about how bad you felt and how little you were able to do that day.

Whether you’re answering questions on your appeal or at your hearing, think about how you are feeling on a bad and then answer the question.

Another good example is severe depression.

Before You Request A Hearing, RepresentMyselfIf you’re suffering from depression you may spend 3 to 4 days at home often locked up in your room, and you feel like you can’t possibly leave the house.

Then there are the other 3 to 4 days of the week that you feel better and you are able to go out and do simple errands. On the day you see your psychiatrist, you’re having a good day. You were able to get out of bed and you made it to your appointment.

When you are asked, “How are you are doing with your depression?” Don’t say you are doing pretty well. The truth is you’re not!

Instead think about the bad days you had that week and then answer the question truthfully.

Here is an example of an answer that focuses on the bad days not the good.

“My life is terrible. I spend 3-4 days each week so sad and depressed that I can’t even leave the house. I spend most days crying because I feel so useless and hopeless.”

You can see how this reply focused on the bad days. It explained to the judge or the doctor why you can’t work.

When you focus on your bad days the answers you give present a clear picture of how your disability affects your life. This is exactly what social security is looking for you to do.

Here is another example with a common question you may get if you are suffering from a lot of pain.

“On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, how would you describe your pain level”?

Remember….think about your bad days and then answer the question.

If a person is in a lot of pain they would rate between a 7 and 10 on the pain scale.

Often people will tell the judge that they rate their pain a “5” out of “10” on the scale.

If that’s true, then fine, but don’t downplay your pain when you rate it. Think about what you feel on a bad day and then answer the question.

Before You Request A Hearing, RepresentMyself

Now that you are prepared to answer questions successfully, let’s move on to the next section.

But before we do, here’s a quick summary of what we’ve covered in this video.

First, we explained how long Social Security will take to process your claim and what can you expect.

Next, we reviewed how to organize the information Social Security requires when you submit your online appeal using the Appeal Checklist.

And lastly, we showed you how your Mindset directly affects the outcome of your case. Just remember that this is the opposite of a job interview. Always think about your bad days before you answer any question.

In the next video, we’ll show you the online appeal and we’ll review the areas which you’ll need to pay special attention to when you file.