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The Social Security disability appeals process

Many, if not most, initial applications for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits are denied. As a result, it is essential for disabled individuals and their families to be familiar with the appeals process and what it is so they understand both how to apply for benefits and appeal when they have been denied Social Security disability benefits.

To initially apply for Social Security disability benefits the applicant must meet both the medical and work history requirements to be eligible to qualify for SSD benefits. The medical requirement includes that the disabled individual suffers from a medical condition that is severe enough that it prevents them from working and is expected to last 12 months or longer or result in death. The disabled individual also must have worked long enough to earn enough work history credits to receive benefits. When a disabled individual believes they have met these requirements, but have been denied benefits, 4 levels of appeal are available to them.

The first level of appeal the disabled individual should be familiar with is a request for reconsideration which allows fresh eyes to review the claim starting from the beginning. If the claim remains denied following a request for reconsideration, the next level of appeal is a hearing before and administrative law judge. The disabled individual should ensure they are properly prepared for the hearing and know what to expect. The last two levels of appeal include a review by the Social Security Administration Appeals Council and an appeal in federal court.

Each step in the process is important for disabled individuals and their families to understand. Knowing what to expect, and how to prepare, is valuable information when disabled individuals are exercising their appeal rights as they pursue the much-needed benefits.

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