Advocating And Protecting Your Rights For Over 40 Years

  1. Home
  2.  – 
  3. Social Security Disability
  4.  – Denied Social Security Disability Benefits

Helping You Overturn A Denied SSD Benefits Application

Written by attorneys Justin M. Bahrie and Kayla Byrd-Daniels

Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is frequently met with rejection, with over 70% facing denial in the initial application. In Michigan, even after appeal or reconsideration, 50% are rejected.

If you need to file an SSD appeal, turn to Bahrie Law, PLLC. Since 1979, our Social Security Disability lawyers have advocated fiercely for the rights of clients who have applied for benefits, including arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court in Babcock v. Kijakazi.

We serve Michigan statewide from our Lansing and Metro Detroit offices.

What To Do If You Have Received A Denial On Your Claim For Social Security Benefits

Do not give up. Keep a copy of your denial as we will need to know the date published on the top of the denial since that tells us when the appeal must be filed. Do not miss your appeal deadline (typically 60 days). We also need to use that date when filing your appeal online.

There are many conditions that are difficult to win benefits at the administrative level (application stages), which ultimately, we are able to obtain favorable decisions at the hearing stage. It is important to keep appealing rather than refiling as long as you have the medical substantiation for your disability and evidence establishing that you have a medically determinable impairment.

Throughout the initial appeals levels, we can continue to add more evidence that can be considered by the Administrative Law Judge in its entirety at the hearing level.

You do not need money up front to retain an attorney and we only get paid if we win your case. Yes, you read that right. We do not get paid unless you get paid.

Give us a call at 888-473-1289 and we will give you a complete review of your disability case at no charge. We take cases at most stages of appeals, but we prefer to get involved early so that we can better assist in preparing your case and give you the best chance of winning your benefits.

The Stages Of A Denied SSD Benefits Application

If your claims have been denied, we can advocate for your rights at every stage of the process, including:


If you have been denied on your initial application, you will receive a decision that includes a “Personalized Disability Explanation.” This is an extremely limited document that provides only a cursory explanation for SSA’s decision. This document will typically tell you the sources of medical records obtained, and the dates received. It is important to review this list and evaluate whether Social Security is missing any important information. This document will also include the date you allege you became disabled as well as any time restrictions that you must prove your disability by.

Once you have received your initial decision, if you review it and are dissatisfied with the initial determination you can submit a request for reconsideration. This is the first level of appeal and works much like the initial claims process. This evaluation involves a comprehensive, independent assessment of all the evidence from the initial claim and all new evidence submitted during the reconsideration. The reconsideration evaluation team at Disability Determination Services (DDS) consists of a disability examiner, medical consultant or psychological consultant, or a disability hearing officer.

  • Time period for filing
    • A request for reconsideration must be submitted within 60 days after receiving the initial determination. They will typically allow a 5-day grace period from the date on the denial (60+5); however, this is an extremely strict deadline. An appeal filed 66 days after the denial will likely be rejected as untimely and you will have to start the process over. If you receive a denial, you should act quickly so that our team has time to carefully review your claim.
  • Who can file a request for reconsideration?
    • You may file a request for reconsideration on your own behalf. You may also entrust the dedicated team here at Bahrie Law, PLLC, who will file your reconsideration request for you. Our team will work with you to ensure missing documentation is obtained and will also evaluate your claim to make sure you have a treatment plan in place to obtain the necessary documentation of your injuries and illnesses.

There is a much more detailed explanation of the denial called a Disability Determination Explanation (DDE), but Social Security Administration does not voluntarily that share at this stage. We have been successful at obtaining this document by requesting it from the local office. This is usually our first step in preparing to assist in the appeal at the reconsideration stage as it provides insight in Social Security Administration employees’ thought process as well as rationale for the denial of benefits. This helps us determine what additional information is needed for a successful appeal.

  • What is considered a request for reconsideration?
    • The request for reconsideration can be expressed or implied, but it must be in writing. The Social Security Administration will consider writing as any documentation such as a letter, fax, form SSA-561 or submission of additional evidence which would imply a disagreement with the initial decision.
    • Calling the field office or contacting the 800 number to ask about the process or request forms does not create a formal request for reconsideration.

DDS is responsible for reviewing the case and determining if additional development is necessary. If the examiner finds that the case requires additional development, they will request additional information. They will request all medical records from all medical sources provided. They will request that you complete an updated SSA-3373 Function Report, so that they can review any worsening of your functioning since the initial determination. The examiner may ask for work history clarification to properly analyze past relevant work. DDS may order a medical or psychological consultative evaluation to be conducted to provide insight to your impairments and limitations.

DDS may issue an affirmation of the prior determination if all of the following is met:

  • There are no allegations of worsening in the initial impairment outlined in the initial application.
  • There are no new impairments alleged.
  • There has been no medical treatment for any conditions since the initial determination.
  • The initial determination was substantively and technically correct and the decision accurately resolved all issues that needed to be adjudicated.
  • There are no changes to functioning capacity.

Note: it is quite common for Social Security to issue a secondary denial at this level that should be appealed if you are unable to work and have medical support.

Hearing by Administrative Law Judge

A hearing allows you to present your case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who will hear your case and issue a favorable or unfavorable decision. Our SSD attorneys can present the proper evidence and challenge vocational experts on your behalf.

It is critical to obtain an attorney prior to your hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge and it is important to do so as soon as possible. We suggest you do so at the very latest when you are given notice that a hearing has been scheduled

  • You will be responsible for ensuring that the record is complete — meaning that all medical records have been obtained, and all medical opinions have been gathered. Subsequent levels of appeals assess the medical evidence at the time the ALJ made their decision and typically evidence presented after the hearing is not considered.
  • You will be expected to present evidence and testimony to prove your case.
  • It is essential to know the law and application of the law to each medical condition you are diagnosed with and prove how your condition impacts your ability to work.
  • You will be required to know the Law including many very technical rules. regulations and case law as it relates to your condition(s).
  • You are required to know the Administrations many rules, regulations and application of the Programs Operations Manual System.
  • You will be held to the same standard as an attorney when presenting your case. Attorneys spend many years learning the law and countless years perfecting our craft. The best way to learn is through practice. Here at Bahrie Law, PLLC, our Disability Attorney’s have represented thousands of clients at their Administrative Hearings

The hearing can be held in three different formats:

  1. In-person at an Office of Hearing Operations that is typically within 75 miles of your home;
  2. Video conference utilizing Microsoft Teams; or
  3. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Social Security Administration has conducted nearly all hearing by telephone or video, but in 2023, in-person hearings have returned. We can assist in whatever method your hearing is scheduled providing a video conference room at our convenient office locations with our Lansing office servicing Mid-Michigan and our Livonia office servicing our Metro-Detroit clients. We will prepare you for whatever format your hearing occurs in.

Who participates in the hearing?

  • You (claimant)
  • Representative or Attorney
  • Administrative Law Judge – They are appointed, and rather than handling criminal or civil cases they specialize in administrative law. They work for the Office of Hearing Operations (OHO), which is part of the Social Security Administration. The ALJ has the exclusive responsibility to review and decide disability claims at the hearing level, and while they are bound to the SSA regulations, but they do have wide discretion in how a hearing is run.
  • Hearing Monitor – This individual is a contracted individual that will record the hearing and take notes for the judge during the hearing.
  • Vocational Expert (VE) – This person is contracted with SSA to provide expert testimony about work. The VE will not evaluate your medical records or determine your disability, and they are not testifying that you can do anything. The testimony they provide is used by the ALJ in determining the disability process. Specifically, the VE will provide testimony about your past relevant work, job availability in the national economy and the impact that certain limitations may have on employability.
    • Following the VE testimony you have the opportunity to cross-examine. Attempting to cross-examine a vocational expert yourself can be an intimidating and confusing process. This is when having a qualified our disability attorneys have cross-examined quite literally thousands of vocational experts and are ready to help you with your case.
  • Medical Expert – may be present to provide expert testimony regarding your physical and/or psychological conditions
  • Witnesses – If you have a person that can provide useful information about your disability, you can have them testify on your behalf. It is rare to need to have a witness, because the majority of the time you will be able to provide all the answers needed at the hearing.

What sort of questions will be asked?

  • There will be background questions, like your date of birth, height, weight, education, address and so on.
  • You will be asked to explain how your conditions interfere with your ability to work.
  • You will be asked to explain what a typical day looks like and any modifications you have made.
  • You will be asked to provide information about your past jobs.
  • Our attorneys will spend hours with you preparing you throughout this entire process, and by the time you get to the hearing you will know what to expect.
  • The Difference is in our representation as by the time you reach your hearing you will be prepared.

How long does a hearing last and when will you get your decision?

  • A hearing will typically last around an hour.
  • Following the hearing the ALJ will review the evidence and take your testimony, medical records and expert testimony and make a decision. The ALJ will then provide specific notes to decision writing staff, who will then draft the decision for the ALJ’s review. The decision is a long and detailed document, which will typically take two to four months to be released. The decision will provide all the details on why you were approved or denied.

Review by the Appeals Council

If you receive an unfavorable decision from the Administrative Law Judge, you can request that the Appeals Council review the decision. The Appeals Council can approve your case, deny reviewing or remand it back to the ALJ for another hearing to address the errors. Upon receipt of the unfavorable decision you have 60 days to request the Appeals Council review. Our experienced attorneys will thoroughly review your decision and exhibit file to put together a plan.

This appeal is done in a written format only with your attorney preparing a brief for the Appeals Council outlining the errors made by the Administrative Law Judge. We typically have to prove that the ALJ abused their discretion or that the ALJ failed to follow the procedures outlined by the Social Security Administration in their rules and regulations.

This is a very technical and specialized area of Law. Our team at Bahrie Law, PLLC have written hundreds of appellate briefs for the Social Security Administration Appeals Council and have honed our craft through our representation and experience. We use this experience to do our best to obtain favorable awards prior to this stage, however, if the law and the facts are on our side we do not give up.

If you have received a denial at the Hearing Stage, we will read through the decision together and discuss the pros and cons to assist our clients to make the decision as to the best course of action to obtain benefits.

Federal District Court Appeal

If the Appeals Council refuses to review your case or if you do not agree with the decision, you have the option to appeal to the federal district court. Again this is a specialized area of law that very few attorneys practice in. A denial at the Appeals council is the final Social Security Agency decision. You have a right to refile your Social Security Disability case at the same time as pursuing Federal Court Action. To file a Federal court case, you have to sue the Social Security Administration in Federal District Court for violating their own rules and or procedures. The US Attorney represents the Social Security Administration and files the brief on behalf of the government

Our Attorneys at Bahrie Law, PLLC have a history of success at this level. We have successfully remanded cases in both the Eastern and Western District Courts in Michigan as well as the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Attorneys Justin M. Bahrie and Nicholas A. Kipa at US Supreme Court

In some cases, our office has received calls from the US attorney agreeing to remand the case after reading our brief without even filing an opposition brief. In rare circumstances, our attorneys have been admitted in other District Courts across the Country to argue Federal Court Appeals for clients that moved out of State. Our team at Bahrie Law, PLLC even appealed a case and were granted Writ of Certiorari at The Supreme Court of the United States in 2021. We do not give up.

Take faster legal action by calling us as soon as possible after you receive notice of denial. The best chance to win your case is at a hearing in front of the Administrative Law Judge. Get us involved before it is too late.

There Is Still Hope Through Our Advocacy

Even though you only have 60 days to appeal or request a reconsideration or hearing, we can still advocate for your rights. Schedule your first meeting by calling 888-473-1289 or filling out our online form to connect with our seasoned SSD attorneys in Michigan.