If your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits was denied, you are not barred from eventually received benefits and you're certainly not alone. Almost two out of every three applications for benefits are denied initially.
You can appeal the initial decision on your application for benefits and the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review the denial. If benefits should have been awarded but were not, the SSA can change its decision and you will start receiving benefits. But, of course, it is not as simple as it may sound. An SSD or SSDI appeal must be made within 60 days of the denial of benefits. You will be informed whether your application for benefits was granted or denied by letter from the SSA.
Generally, there are four levels to the SSDI appeals process:
- Disability hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
- Review by the Appeals Council
Review in Federal Court
A reconsideration of your application for disability benefits means that someone who was not involved in the initial decision will review your entire file and decide whether benefits were properly denied or should have been granted. If new evidence is available to support your claim for SSDI or SSI benefits, it will be included in this evaluation.
The Disability Hearing
If, after reconsideration, you have not been approved for benefits but believe that you should be, the next step is an in-person or video hearing with an ALJ who will decide your case. Some states have bypassed reconsideration and allow disability applicants to move directly to the hearing stage of the appeals process.
Again, you will have the opportunity to present additional evidence to support your application for benefits. Your Social Security Disability appeals attorney will attend the hearing with you as well as may question witnesses to support your application for benefits. The ALJ will consider all evidence in your case file as well as all evidence presented at the hearing in determining whether benefits should be awarded.
Appeals Council and Federal Court
If the ALJ again denies your application for benefits, you may request a review of your case by the Social Security's Appeals Council. The Council does not have to grant your request for review; if your request is denied, the next step is to take your disability case to federal court for review.
When Does the Appeals Process End?
Once SSDI or SSI benefits are granted, there is no need to continue through the appeals process. You should receive a written letter describing when payments will begin and how much you can expect to receive each month. For disability benefits, payments will not begin until your sixth month of disability. If you've been through the appeals process, it is likely that you are well past six months and payments will begin as soon as SSA processes your paperwork.
If you've been denied SSDI or SSI benefits, you have a right to review. An experienced Social Security benefits attorney can help you present a strong case for benefit approval, making sure that the proper medical documentation of your disability is available for the administration to consider your application or appeal.