Appealing A Denial Of Social Security Disability Benefits

If your claim for disability benefits has been denied by an administrative law judge, you can have two additional options to appeal.

If you have applied for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, your application is likely to be denied initially. In 2012, 65 percent of initial applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) were denied at the initial stage.

Many people with medical impairments that keep them from working are approved after an administrative hearing. If your application for benefits is denied after reconsideration and an administrative hearing, you have two more options for appeal.

Initial Stages Of Appeal: Reconsideration And Administrative Hearing

If your initial application for disability benefits is denied, the first level of appeal is reconsideration. This means that someone who was not involved in the decision to deny your claim takes a fresh look at your case. The reviewer will look at all the evidence submitted with your application, along with any new evidence. Generally, you will not have to meet with Social Security during reconsideration.

Applications are often also denied at the reconsideration stage. When this happens, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. The administrative hearing process is lengthy - in many cases, applicants wait 15 months or more for a hearing. During the hearing, an administrative law judge will listen as you and your attorney present evidence. The judge may also call experts to testify.

Reconsideration and administrative hearings are the two most common types of appeals, but they are not the only types. Administrative law judges can make mistakes, and their decisions are not always correct. If your claim was denied after an administrative hearing, you have two additional ways to appeal: the Appeals Council and a lawsuit in federal court.

Appeals Council

The Appeals Council is the final stop in the pursuit for benefits within the Social Security Administration. You have 60 days after a denial at the administrative hearing stage to file an appeal.

The council is based in Virginia and examines but does not have to accept every request that comes to it. The council may deny a request if it believes the earlier decision was correct. If it agrees to consider a case, the council may handle the review itself or send the case to an administrative law judge.

According to the Social Security Administration, the council received 172,492 requests for review in the fiscal year that ended in September 2013. The average processing time for a request at the Appeals Council was 364 days at that time.

Final Step: Federal Court

If the Appeals Council declines to consider your request or denies your case after appeal, your options for appealing to the Social Security Administration are exhausted. The next and final step is a lawsuit in federal court. It brings your application for benefits out of Social Security's administrative system. You have 60 days to file an appeal in federal district court. During the fiscal year that ended in September 2013, Social Security received notice of 18,779 federal court cases stemming from denials of disability benefits.

SSDI appeals are complex legal processes. An experienced attorney can assist you with the entire appeals process, from reconsideration of an initial denial through a federal court case.

Keywords: appeals, disability benefits, Social Security