Leading Disability Attorney In San Diego

Social Security Claims Process




A claimant files a claim for Disability Insurance Benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits either at a local Social Security office, online (SSA.gov), or by telephone (800 772-1213). The file is then forwarded to the state Disability Evaluation Division to gather medical evidence. This evidence is reviewed by a staff doctor who is budgeted only a few minutes to determine whether a claimant is disabled or not. The vast majority of claims are denied.



If the Claimant appeals (many Claimants mistakenly give up after the initial denial), the claim is again sent to the the state DED, and a different doctor (a colleague of the first reviewing doctor) almost always agrees with the first doctor’s assessment, rubber stamping the initial denial. Unfortunately, far too many Claimants give up at this stage as well. For those that don’t, they file a Request for Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge.


This is the first time a Claimant receives a full and fair analysis of their claim. The Claimant is given the opportunity to submit evidence (critical), and the opportunity to testify on their behalf. A Claimant’s testimony is much less important than people think. If the Judge ruled on what people said about their ability to work, every claim would get approved. Many people also bring a witness, generally a family member or friend, to testify on their behalf. This is of least value. The judges know this person is not objective, and treat their testimony accordingly. Attorney Sandoval will represent you at your Hearing, argue on your behalf, cross examine vocational and medical experts, if necessary, and ensure your rights are protected.


If the Judge denies the claim, there is a final administrative appeal to the Appeals Council in Falls Church, Virginia. Attorney Sandoval appeals 99% of his cases that are denied by an ALJ.

Federal Court

If the Appeals Council denies the claim, a Claimant can sue the Social Security Administration in the United States District Court. Attorney Sandoval has done so on behalf of his clients over 500 times over the past three decades, often leading to an award of benefits. Many lawyers do not take appeals into Federal Court because it requires too much work. Attorney Sandoval believes it is important to pursue a claim as far as is justified, and that the ALJ’s know the few lawyers that do, keeping them more fair-minded at the hearing. No Judge likes a higher court telling them they were wrong.