Two programs administered by Social Security offer assistance to people struggling to meet the financial challenges caused by being unable to work and earn a living because of a disability. If you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you receive cash payments each month. Meeting the requirements to qualify for benefits under either program can be difficult with less than a third of applicants receiving approval on their initial application.
The low rate of approval of applications makes it essential that you work with a Social Security disability lawyer with the ability to challenge an adverse determination through each level of the appeal process, including federal court. At Scully Disability Law we know what it takes to win a Social Security disability case in federal court, so we prepared this overview of the appeals process to give you a better idea of the options available to you should your application for benefits be denied.
Social Security disability appeals process
Receiving a notice that the application for SSI or SSDI that you depended on to provide relief from the financial hardship of being disabled and unable to work was denied is not the end of the world because you have options for challenging it. You have the right to challenge any initial determination made by Social Security, but a finding that you do not qualify for benefits, whether because of medical or nonmedical reasons, is one of the most common initial determinations for which people file appeals.
An appeal to federal court is the last of four levels in the appeal process available to you. The notice you receive from Social Security about its determination contains instructions to follow to exercise your right to challenge it, but the four levels or stages are the following:
- Request for reconsideration.
- Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge.
- Appeals Council review.
- Civil action in Federal Court.
It is to your advantage to be represented by an SSD lawyer at each stage of the appeal process. An SSI lawyer or SSDI lawyer gives you someone with knowledge of the law and the Social Security disability regulations and procedures to act as your trusted advocate.
Requesting reconsideration of the initial determination
A request for reconsideration results in your case being reviewed by claims examiners and medical consultants who were not involved in making the determination that you are appealing. Reconsideration must be requested in writing within 60 days of the date of the notice that Social Security sent to you containing information about its initial determination.
If you currently receive benefits, your SSI lawyer will submit the request for reconsideration within 10 days from the date you receive the notice. Doing so will allow your benefits to continue at their current level without interruption until the reconsideration takes place.
Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge
An adverse determination on a request for reconsideration may be appealed by submitting a written request within 60 days for a hearing conducted by an Administrative Law Judge. Your SSD lawyer will review with you how hearings are conducted, but the choices are to allow the ALJ to make a decision on your claim based solely on the evidence contained in the file or appear at a hearing to offer evidence in support of your claim.
Hearings are conducted in person, over the phone, or by video teleconferencing. Your SSDI lawyer submits written evidence and statements in support of your claim in advance of the hearing date. The judge will consider the written evidence and the testimony of witnesses from the hearing in deciding on your appeal. If the decision does not go in your favor, your lawyer may recommend appealing it to the Appeals Council.
Appeals Council review
An ALJ decision may be appealed by requesting a review by an Appeals Council. Your request must be in writing within 60 days from the hearing decision. The Appeals Council may grant, deny or decline to review your case.
Federal Court appeal
If you exhaust all of the challenges available through Social Security, your next step to appeal an adverse determination is through civil action filed in federal court within 60 days. The court has the authority to reverse the determination made on your case or send the case back to Social Security for further action, which may include a new ALJ hearing.
Improve your chances of winning an appeal
A Social Security disability federal court appeal takes time and money, but it may be your only choice when you have exhausted all other methods of challenging an adverse determination. You can improve your chance of success during the appeal process by speaking with a Social Security disability lawyer at Scully Disability Law.
We know the federal laws and regulations and the type of evidence needed to support a claim for benefits under SSI and SSDI. Our lawyers also have the experience and skill to present evidence and supporting arguments compellingly to enhance your chance of a successful outcome.