If you have been denied SSD or SSI, you still have the right to make an appeal. In fact, you have the right to make several appeals if necessary. While many applicants get approved based on their initial applications, many others receive benefits only after going through the appeals process, so don’t give up.
There are time limitations on every step in the appeals process. In general, if you disagree with a decision you will want to request the next level of appeal as soon as possible.
Step 1: Reconsideration
If you disagree with the initial determination regarding your eligibility for benefits or if the SSA changes your benefit amount and you disagree, you can appeal through reconsideration.
How: Request reconsideration by sending SSA a signed note with your Social Security number stating that you wish to appeal the decision. Or, complete Form SSA-561 (Request for Reconsideration) or Form SSA-789 (Disability Cessation Appeal).
When: Make the request within 60 days of the date you receive the written notice of initial determination. If you request reconsideration within 10 days, any payment being made to you will continue until a determination is made, providing your income and resources do not exceed SSA’s limits.
Reconsideration will take approximately 90 days to complete.
Step 2: Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing
If you disagree with the reconsideration determination, request a hearing before an ALJ. You may review your file, submit new evidence and present your own testimony at the hearing. The judge may also want you to have additional medical exams and tests completed.
Because these hearings are done in-person, it is important that you attend or you may lose your appeal rights and benefits. If you cannot make the hearing, contact the judge as soon as possible before the hearing and explain why.
How: Either write to the SSA and requesting an ALJ hearing or complete Form HA-501 (Request for Hearing).
When: Make the request within 60 days after you receive the notice of reconsideration.
AJL hearing will take approximately 530 days to complete.
Step 3: Appeals Council
If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you may request an Appeals Council review but the Appeals Council will select which cases it wishes to hear. You may also submit new evidence here.
How: Either write to the SSA and requesting an Appeals Council review or complete Form HA-520 (Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order).
When: Make the request within 60 days after you get the hearing decision.
Appeals council will take approximately 220 days to complete.
Step 4: U.S. District Court
If you disagree with the Appeals Council, you may file a civil action with the U.S. District Court in your area.
The court will decide whether to overrule the SSA’s decision by granting you benefits, or, more often, by remanding the case (sending it back) to the ALJ for reconsideration. The SSA will no longer be able to help you at this level.
Federal court will take approximately 540 days to complete.
All necessary forms can be found at the SSA’s website.