Most Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants do not get accepted at first. In fact, one study found just 35% of applications are initially allowed. This results in many individuals turning to the appeals process.
While the Social Security Administration (SSA) does allow denied SSDI applicants the opportunity to appeal a decision, the process is not always straightforward. Here are four things you should keep in mind if you’re considering a Social Security Disability appeal.
1. You have to act quickly
If the SSA denies your initial disability application, you must respond promptly. Generally, you only have 60 days from the date of receipt to notify the agency you would like to appeal its decision. If you miss the deadline, there is little you can do (with rare exceptions for extenuating circumstances). The decision is essentially final.
2. The appeal has to be in writing
If you want to appeal a denial, you must submit your request in writing. This can be done by contacting the SSA for an appeal form, or by mailing a signed note (along with some other information) to the SSA. There may also be an opportunity to file an appeal online.
3. The first step is reconsideration
The SSDI appeals process has four distinct layers. The first is called reconsideration. At this stage, someone with the Social Security department who had no input on the initial decision reviews your case. This person can look over your original application, plus potentially new evidence you submit.
If this once again results in a rejection, there are three additional steps to the process:
- A hearing conducted by an administrative law judge
- A review by the Appeals Council
- Taking the case to federal court
4. You can have help
The SSA allows appealing applicants to have help, in the form of a lawyer or another qualified person familiar with the Social Security program. It’s important to note that this representative is usually barred from charging you or collecting a fee without first getting permission from the SSA. In many instances these cases are handled on a contingency basis, meaning the attorney will only receive compensation if you win.