It’s not easy to navigate the Social Security Disability (SSD) claims process. There are forms to fill out, explanations that have to be given and time limits that need to be met – and then you have to wait months for any kind of decision.
Most likely, that decision will come in the form of a denial letter. Nationally, only 38% of those who meet the technical eligibility requirements for SSD end up being medically approved for disability benefits when they initially file. While your claim’s initial denial may be frustrating and disheartening, it’s not the end of your journey. You have appeal rights.
What is the appeals process for SSD denials?
The initial appeals process is called a reconsideration request. Essentially, this is just asking the Social Security Administration (SSA) to take a look at your claim with fresh eyes. It’s also a chance to update your medical records and fill in any gaps in information that may have caused the denial.
If your claim is denied again, you can file for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This gives you the ability to plead your case directly to someone with the power to approve your claim. Many claims that fail during the initial claims process and the reconsideration phase end up being approved at the hearing level.
If your claim is still unsuccessful, you can ask for an Appeal Council review, but there is no guarantee that the Appeals Council will agree to look at your claim. If it does, it has the power to either decide your claim or send it back to the ALJ for a new hearing. If you disagree with the outcome of your request for an Appeals Council review, you still have the option of filing a civil claim in the U.S. District Court.
You have 60 days (plus a five-day allowance for mailing time) from the date of your notice to file an appeal at every level, so use that time wisely. Seeking legal guidance can help you better understand the reason your claim was denied in the first place and exactly what you can do to overcome those issues.