Understanding the Social Security disability appeals process

After a denied claim for benefits, the Social Security disability appeals process may help you get the result you need.

If your claim for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, there is a multistep appeals process available to help you challenge the decision. These appeals are common. According to the Social Security Administration, a majority of claims for benefits are rejected on the first application.

The following are four steps in the SSD appeals process:

Request for reconsideration

The first step is to file a request for reconsideration. You have 60 days from the date that you received a denial notice to make this request. If you do not request reconsideration within 60 days, you will need to file a new application for SSD benefits. The only exceptions are made for extenuating circumstances such as a hospitalization, incapacitation, or serious illness.

During this time, Disability Determination Services will review your paperwork and reexamine your claim. The chances of success in this phase are low, so you should be prepared to continue with the appeals process after you've submitted your request for reconsideration.

ALJ hearing

If your SSD claim is still rejected after your request for reconsideration, you may request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). The SSA office may ask you for additional information or evidence to support your claim, and both sides are able to call witnesses.

Prior to the hearing, the ALJ will review your file, including your work history, medical records, and the reasons for your denial of benefits. At the hearing, the judge will likely question you about your claim and ask questions of a vocational expert. The ALJ will issue a ruling after the hearing.

Appeals council

After an unfavorable result at an ALJ hearing, your next option is to file an appeal with the Social Security Appeals Council, which is located in Virginia. You must take this step within 60 days of a denial at the ALJ stage.

The Appeals Council (AC) will examine all previous decisions related to your claim for benefits, including why you have been denied. You may submit additional information for the AC to review. The AC may also examine the circumstances of your ALJ hearing to determine if there were any legal errors involved.

After reviewing your claim, the AC may deny your request for review, send your case back to the ALJ stage (where you'll receive a new hearing), or provide a new decision and approve your claim for SSD benefits.

Federal district court

The next step in the SSD appeals process is to appeal the decision to a federal district court, which you must again do within 60 days of the Appeals Council denial. You must do so by filing a written complaint with the court.

Appealing a denied Social Security disability claim is a long and stressful process, and it's important to consult a skilled lawyer to help you understand the steps and your best options. Speak with an experienced Charlotte Social Security disability attorney to learn more.

Keywords: Social Security, disability, appeals

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