Portland, OR asked in Appeals / Appellate Law and Social Security for Oregon

Q: I applied for disability and was denied. What should I do in my appeal to get a better chance of being approved?

I have a congenital heart condition which has required 2 surgeries already, a malformed hand from a birth defect, a knee which the doctor says will need surgery to fix and rebuild (I walk with a cane), and several diagnosed mental health conditions. As far as I can tell, the disability board only evaluated my hand and knee before denying my application. As I do not believe my condition was evaluated in totality, what can I do in my appeal to ensure a full evaluation?

2 Lawyer Answers
Elizabeth Fowler Lunn
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  • Social Security Disability Lawyer
  • Raleigh, NC

A: The majority of people are denied at the first two stages of the process so don’t let that discourage you. When you file the appeal make sure you give detailed information about all of your medical conditions and list all of your treatment providers. While a note from your doctor saying you are disabled will be ignored by Social Security, a very detailed letter about your conditions and how they affect your ability to work may be more helpful. If you have been working and have now had to stop due to your health then details about what has changed with your health should be included in the doctor’s letter.

There is a good chance your appeal will be denied. Many people who get initial denials are not successful until having a hearing with a judge. That comes after you appeal the second denial.

Susan Michele Schaefer
Susan Michele Schaefer
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Prattville, AL

A: Review the notice of decision that Social Security sent you to see what evidence they considered when making the decision. If there is missing evidence, make sure you let Social Security know what evidence they do not have. In fact, make sure that you inform Social Security of all medical sources you have seen who have relevant evidence of your impairments/conditions including your treating physician and psychiatrist, your psychological therapist, any specialists you have seen, any hospitals or emergency departments where you have been treated. If you have had assessments, such as a functional assessment or psychological evaluation, inform Social Security. Provide a statement from your physician about your impairments, signs and symptoms and how they limit you -include information about the medical need for a cane. If you have medical evidence in your possession, make a copy of it and submit it yourself to Social Security to support you claim.

Social Security will ask you to complete forms for more information, but you can fill out some of the forms on your own. Ask a person who lives with you or knows you well to complete the Third Party Function form SSA-3380-BK. If you have not already, you can complete and submit a Function form SSA-3373-BK yourself. There is also a Disability Report - Appeal SSA-3441-BK. You can also provide a list of your medications and note any side-effects you have.

Remember that Social Security takes a number of factors into account in addition to your medical impairments/conditions. They also consider pain and other symptoms, your functional abilty, age, education, and work experience. It would be a good idea for you to consult with an experienced disability attorney as you work on developing evidence to support your claim. Most offer a free initial consultation and will be able to discuss case particulars with you.

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