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How does the appeals process work for SSI benefits?


As some readers of this blog already know, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that the Social Security Administration handles to help elderly, blind and disabled individuals who do not have other substantial forms of income. The program is supposed to provide cash benefits to these people so that they can pay for necessities including food and shelter. In many cases, however, the SSA denies applicants the benefits that they believe they should get. When this happens for SSI benefits, what can an applicant do?

Following a denial letter from the SSA, an SSI applicant can initiate the appeals process by filing an appeal on the SSA's website, or by mailing a written appeal form to the SSA. But, applicants in this situation should not wait to appeal, because they have only 60 days to file an appeal from the time that they receive their letters about the denied SSI claim.

The appeals process for SSI benefits includes four different levels of review. The first level is reconsideration, which is where a person who did not participate in the initial claim decision reviews the entire application file plus any new evidence. The reconsideration reviewer then reaches a decision, and if the applicant still disagrees with the decision, he or she can request a hearing. During this second phase of review, an administrative law judge will question the applicant and any witnesses that the applicant takes to the hearing.

If, after the hearing, the SSI applicant wants further review, he or she can request review by the Social Security's Appeals Council. That body examines all requests for review, but may deny a request if it agrees with the result from the hearing. On the other hand, the Council can choose to review the case and either come to its own decision or send the case back to the administrative law judge for further review.

The final option for review of an SSI claim is in federal court. The applicant must file a lawsuit in federal district court, and then go through all of the steps of litigating the case.

Applying for SSI benefits can be a difficult process for some people, but appealing a claim can be downright overwhelming. An experienced Social Security attorney may be able to help people in the Houston area who are struggling with any part of trying to get SSI benefits.

Source: SSA.gov, "The Appeals Process," Accessed on Aug. 12, 2015

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