Many applications for Social Security disability benefits filed by Houston residents are denied the first time around, and the applicants are frequently left angry, confused and feeling helpless. Fortunately, the SSD benefit rules provide a multi-step appeal process that provides many applicants with an opportunity to reverse the initial denial.
The first step in an SSD benefits appeal is requesting a reconsideration of the decision. A request for reconsideration can be based on medical grounds or non-medical grounds. A request for a Medical Reconsideration asks the Social Security Administration to review the medical records in the case. The appeal will be assigned to someone who did not participate in the original decision, and that person will issue a decision on whether the denial is properly supported by the medical evidence. A reconsideration is based almost entirely on the original medical records, although the applicant can submit additional information that is relevant to the case. The applicant is responsible for assembling and submitting the necessary medical records.
If a request for reconsideration results in another denial, the applicant can ask for a review by an administrative law judge. This type of hearing requires oral testimony and the submission of any additional evidence. Many hearings before an administrative law judge are conducted online or by video teleconferencing. The administrative law judge will review the existing evidence and any evidence presented at the hearing, including the testimony of the applicant.
If the administrative law judge affirms the denial of benefits, the applicant can request review by the Appeals Council. The law allows the Council to select which cases it intends to review. The Council can refuse to review a case or it can review a case and either affirm the denial of benefits, approve the applicant's claim or send the claim back to an administrative law judge for review.
The final appellate step is seeking review of the decision in federal court. Most people benefit from consulting with or retaining a lawyer who is experienced in federal disability law before starting a case in federal court.