Approximately 65-70% of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are initially denied. That does not mean that there is no hope for benefits. If you are fully disabled from working and expect to be for at least a year, there’s a good chance you do qualify.
There are four levels of appeal. In general, you must ask for an appeal within 60 days of the denial of your claim. You may not have to go through all four levels of appeal to obtain benefits. Your benefits could be approved at any of these levels.
The first type of appeal is a reconsideration. This is a complete review of your claim by someone who wasn’t involved in the initial determination. It’s best to work with an attorney to ensure that every element of your claim is fully supported by evidence, and you can also submit new evidence.
You can request a reconsideration online, by phone or TTY, or at a Social Security Administration office. You can check its status through your My Social Security account.
If you disagree with the outcome of the reconsideration, you can request an appeal hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). This is a special type of judge handles only Social Security cases. This hearing will typically take place within 75 miles of your home.
Again, you can request an ALJ hearing online, by phone or TTY, or at a Social Security Administration office and check its status through your My Social Security account.
If you are unsatisfied with the ALJ’s decision in your case, you may request a Social Security Appeals Council review. The Appeals Council is superior to the Social Security Administration’s administrative law judges. The Appeals Council considers every request, but it may decline yours if it determines the ALJ decided your case correctly. Or, it may review your case. If it does, it may decide the case itself or send it back to an ALJ for reconsideration.
Appeals Council reviews can be requested online, by phone or TTY, or through your local Social Security Administration office.
There is one final avenue of appeal if you disagree with the outcome of your Appeals Council review: a federal district court. This involves filing a civil action in your local district court or, if you don’t have one, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. There is a filing fee.
Federal district court actions must be filed directly with the court. Your lawyer can ensure the case is filed properly.
If you have been denied SSDI or SSI benefits, contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney.