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Social Security Disability: Your right to appeal

Many people realize that the process for obtaining Social Security Disability is often long and fraught with difficulties. If a single document is out of line, it could result in a denial of benefits.

If you've had your benefits denied, you have the option to appeal that decision. To do so, you'll be able to go through several levels of appeals. Here's a little more about what you can expect.

1. Reconsideration

The first step of an appeal is reconsideration. This allows a new party to review your application. If you submit new evidence, this and the past evidence is used to determine whether you should receive disability benefits.

2. Attend an administrative hearing

If your reconsideration did not go well, you can seek an administrative hearing. This typically takes place within 75 miles of your home and requires you to go to court. The hearing is performed by a judge who did not have a role in the original findings of your application. 

3. Seek help from the Appeals Council

When you are denied after reconsideration and an administrative hearing, you can move forward to the Appeals Council review level. It may deny your request if the hearing decision was based on sound evidence and met the laws and regulations required. However, if it denies to see the case, it will return your case back to the administrative law judge for a second time.

4. Seek help from the federal courts

Finally, you have the option to seek help from the federal courts. The federal district court is the last possible level of appeals, so make sure you have all the evidence you need by the time you reach this stage. If you cannot convince a judge at the federal level, you may not be able to obtain disability benefits, or else you'd have to start the entire claims process over again.

Your attorney can help you prepare documents and evidence so that you have the best chance of getting your application approved the first time. If it isn't, the Social Security Administration will provide information on why the application was denied. This gives you somewhere to start when gathering more information for an appeal. With the right documents, many people obtain their benefits following the first appeal.

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