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Social Security Disability Appeals

Most initial claims are denied, but you can appeal if you feel the denial was incorrect. Social Security wants to be sure that every decision made about your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim is correct. They want to carefully consider all the information in your case before making any decisions that affect your eligibility or your benefit amount.

When they make a decision on your claim, they will send you a letter explaining their decision. If you do not agree with that decision, you can appeal - that is, ask them to look at your case again.

When you ask for an appeal, they will look at the entire decision, even those parts that were in your favor. If you can demonstrate that their decision was wrong, they will change it.

When & How Can You Appeal?

Should you wish to appeal, you must make your request in writing within 60 days from the date you receive their letter. They assume you receive the letter five days after the date on the letter, unless you can show us you received it later. Call your local Social Security office if you need help with your appeal.

If you filed for Social Security disability benefits or SSI and your claim was denied for medical reasons, you may request an appeal at Internet Appeal.

How Many Appeal Levels Are There?

Generally, there are four levels of appeal. They are:

* Reconsideration;
* Hearing by an administrative law judge;
* Review by the Appeals Council; and
* Federal Court review.

When you are sent a letter about a decision on your claim, they will tell you how to appeal the decision.


A reconsideration is a complete review of your claim by someone who did not take part in the first decision. They will look at all the evidence submitted when the original decision was made, plus any new evidence.

Most reconsiderations involve a review of your files without the need for you to be present. But when you appeal a decision that you are no longer eligible for disability benefits because your medical condition has improved, you can meet with a Social Security representative and explain why you believe you still have a disability.


If you disagree with the reconsideration decision, you may ask for a hearing. The hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge who had no part in the original decision or the reconsideration of your case. The hearing is usually held within 75 miles of your home. The administrative law judge will notify you of the time and place of the hearing.

Before the hearing, they may ask you to provide more evidence and to clarify information about your claim. You may look at the information in your file and give new information.

At the hearing, the administrative law judge will question you and any witnesses you bring. Other witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts, also may give us information at the hearing. You or your representative may question the witnesses.

In certain situations, they may hold your hearing by a video conference rather than in person. They will let you know ahead of time if this is the case. With video hearings, they can make the hearing more convenient for you. Often an appearance by video hearing can be scheduled faster than an in-person appearance. Also, a video hearing location may be closer to your home. That might make it easier for you to have witnesses or other people accompany you.

It is usually to your advantage to attend the hearing (in person or video conference). You and your representative, if you have one, should come to the hearing and explain your case.

If you are unable to attend a hearing or do not wish to do so, you must explain why in writing as soon as you can. Unless the administrative law judge believes your presence is necessary to decide your case and requires you to attend, you will not have to go. Or they may be able to make other arrangements for you, such as changing the time or place of your hearing. You have to have a good reason for us to make other arrangements.


What You Should Know About Social Security Disability

After the hearing, the judge will make a decision based on all the information in your case, including any new information you give. They will send you a letter and a copy of the judge's decision.

Appeals Council

If you disagree with the hearing decision, you may ask for a review by Social Security's Appeals Council. They will be glad to help you ask for this review.

The Appeals Council looks at all requests for review, but it may deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was correct. If the Appeals Council decides to review your case, it will either decide your case itself or return it to an administrative law judge for further review.

If the Appeals Council denies your request for review, you will be sent a letter explaining the denial. If the Appeals Council reviews your case and makes a decision itself, you will be sent a copy of the decision. If the Appeals Council returns your case to an administrative law judge, you will be sent a letter and a copy of the order.

Federal Court

If you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision or if the Appeals Council decides not to review your case, you may file a lawsuit in a federal district court. The letter sent to you about the Appeals Council's action also will tell you how to ask a court to look at your case.

Can You Seek Help With The Process?

Yes. Many people handle their own Social Security appeals with free help from Social Security. But you can choose a lawyer, a friend or someone else to help you. Someone you appoint to help you is called your "representative." They will work with your representative just as they would work with you. Your representative can act for you in most Social Security matters and will receive a copy of any decisions we make about your claim.

Your representative cannot charge or collect a fee from you without first getting written approval from Social Security.

If you want more information about having a representative, ask for Your Right To Representation (Publication No. 05-10075) or fill out our form and speak with a Social Security Disability lawyer. The initial consult is free.

The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice

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