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4 Levels of Appeals for SSDI

4 Levels of Appeals for SSDI

In order to appeal a denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD), you’ll need to complete the steps included on the notice sent to you by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In most states, the first step is to file a request for reconsideration. If that doesn’t succeed, the instructions will tell you how to take your case to the next level of appeal for Social Security disability benefits. 

First Step: Request for Reconsideration 

In most states, you must start your appeal by requesting that the initial denial get reviewed again. The reconsideration is performed at the Disability Determination Services (DDS) level by an examiner and medical consultant who were not involved in the initial decision. Any professionals who took part in your denial are barred from the case. About 5 to 10 percent of reconsideration claims are approved. 

To begin your reconsideration appeal, you’ll need to contact your local field office. To find your local Social Security office, you can go to the SSA’s website and click on “Find a Social Security Office.” 

If you’re not one of the few individuals who has your first appeal approved, you should move on to the next level of appeal. That is to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). 

Second Step: ALJ Hearing 

To move on to this step, you must request a hearing within 60 days of the date on your denial letter. An Administrative Law Judge is an Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) attorney working for the SSA. They mostly overturn or uphold decisions to terminate or deny disability benefits, but they also hear cases for Social Security on non-disability issues. Approximately 50 percent of disability applicants who appeal to an ALJ will be approved to receive benefits. If your SSA OHO (ODAR) letter is a denial, you’ll have to move on to the next step. 

Third Step: Appeals Council 

If you are denied after a disability hearing, the next step is to request that the Appeals Council take a look at your case. The Appeals Council selects review cases randomly and has the ability to deny your request for review. In order to be granted a review, there must have been a flaw in the ALJ decision. Even when this happens, your chance of success at the council level is only 2 or 3 percent. Most people only attempt it in order to be approved to sue the SSA in federal court. 

Fourth Step: Federal Court Review 

The last step in the appeal process is to sue the SSA in U.S. district court. If you haven’t already hired a lawyer, now would be the time. Disability cases are heard in federal court without juries. Judges are supposed to examine the case for legal errors, but they may also rule on factual questions. Only a small number of claims are reversed at this level, but about 50 percent of disability cases are sent back to the SSA to take a closer look at the facts and reassess the claim. 

The truth is, despite having a higher chance of winning an appeal after a hearing in a federal courtroom, the entire process is timeconsuming and expensive. Even if you succeed, reaching that level of the appeals process can take years. It may also be difficult to find an attorney willing to file in federal court. Because of this, fewer than 1 percent of all disability claimants take their case this far. 

Your best chance of winning an appeal for Social Security Disability benefits is to hire a lawyer from the start. The attorneys at the Jorgensen Law can help guide you through the application process and fight for you at the lower appeal levels to improve your odds of being approved. Call us today at 1-888-855-2948 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.