denied disability benefits

What are the Different Stages in the Disability Appeals Process?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

If you have applied for disability benefits, you may have been initially denied. Do not despair. In fact, the majority of those who apply for disability benefits are denied at first. Many have more success appealing this denial. There are, in fact, several stages in the disability appeals process. This means you may have multiple chances after being denied to still succeed in being granted disability benefits.

What Are the Different Stages in the Disability Appeals Process?

If you received a denial on your Social Security disability benefits application, you may request an appeal, but you must do so in writing and it must be received within 60 days from you receiving the letter informing you that your application has been denied. The first stage in the disability appeals process is referred to as “reconsideration.” In reconsideration, the SSA will do a complete review of your claim and it will be reviewed by someone who was not involved in rendering that initial denial. All evidence you submitted for your claim will be reviewed as well as any new evidence you have submitted. In the majority of instances, your file will be reviewed and you will not need to be present for the process.

Should reconsideration still yield an unfavorable result, you may request a hearing. An administrative law judge will conduct your hearing and he or she will have had no part in rendering either the initial decision or the reconsideration decision on your application. You will be notified of both the time and place of your hearing. At the hearing, the SSA may ask you to provide more evidence or to clarify information concerning your application. The judge will question you and any witnesses you provide, including expert witnesses such as doctors and other medical professionals. After the hearing, the judge will render a decision and the SSA will send you a letter with a copy of the judge’s decision.

If you disagree with the decision of the administrative law judge, you may request a review by the SSA Appeals Council. The Appeals Council may deny the request if it thinks that the decision rendered at the administrative law judge hearing was sound. Should the Appeals Council decide to review your case, it will either render a decision for itself or send it back to an administrative law judge for further consideration. If the Appeals Council decides not to review your case, the SSA will send you a letter detailing why your request was denied.

Should the Appeals Council render another unfavorable decision on your application or if they decline review of your case, you can still file a lawsuit in federal district court. The letter regarding the Appeal’s Council’s review or decision not to review will detail how you can do this.

California Disability Attorney

As you can see, the road to disability benefits can be a long one. Having a trusted counsel by your side can help you. Disability Advocates is here to provide assistance in your initial application for disability benefits as well as an appeal and follow-up that may be necessary. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.