A Guide to the Social Security Disability Appeal Process

Social Security disability benefits are a lifeline for millions of people with disabilities, helping them to pay rent and buy the essentials they need to survive once they are unable to work. In order to receive these benefits, you are required to submit an application to the Social Security Administration to prove that your disability is serious enough to garner receiving benefits.

For many, unfortunately, the news they hear back isn’t great. Some studies have found that only 1/3 of initial disability claims are approved, often requiring further proof of your disability. When this happens, you’ll enter the formal appeal process and work through a series of steps to get your benefits approved.

If your application has been denied, we’re here to help. Let’s walk through the steps of your appeal process and show you how to avoid getting your application denied.

The Steps of the Social Security Disability (SSDI) Appeals Process

There are three levels to appealing your denied disability claim:

  • Hearing by an administrative law judge. In this hearing, a judge who had no original say in your case will determine if you are eligible for benefits or not based on information presented during your hearing. Administrative hearings are often key to getting approved, with nearly half of all cases getting approved at this step. This hearing is usually held within 75 miles of where you live, and it will be held months after your appeal is filed.
  • Review by the Appeals Council. If you or your legal representative believes that the decision made by the administrative law judge was unjust or made incorrectly, you may request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. The Council will see if the decision was made properly, then they will either decide the case themselves or refer it back to an administrative law judge for another hearing.
  • Federal court review. Your final step if you have been denied after all previous steps would be to file a civil suit in a federal district court. This is filed within the judicial district where you live. A federal judge who has no connection to Social Security will review your medical evidence to determine if you are disabled.

Tips to Successfully for Social Security Disability Benefits

If you’re worried that your initial application will be denied, use these tips to help improve your odds:

  • Check that your medical condition fits their criteria. In order to be cleared for disability benefits, your condition must be listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. In addition, your condition must last for at least a year or result in death. If you do not fit these basic criteria, you will be automatically rejected.
  • Cooperate with the SSA. The Social Security Administration will be working closely with you to get your application approved, so it’s important to do as they ask of you. Provide all information by their deadlines and show up when you are required. You should also make sure to attend any consultative medical exams that are requested.
  • Provide ample evidence. Get as much information you can include in your application. Track down all of your medical records, and see if your doctor would be willing to provide a statement about the extent of your disability. List your symptoms and provide details on how they have impacted your life. No matter how small you think the detail is, include it.
  • Get an attorney on your side. Hiring a lawyer has been shown to improve your chances of your application being approved. Since they have a complex understanding of the SSA, they can guide you through the system and help avoid the appeals process if possible. They can also help you while filling your application out, ensuring you provide all of the necessary information the SSA requires.


Are you ready to appeal your disability benefits decision?

Contact Reynolds & Gold. Our team of lawyers can assist you while getting through the process of filing for an appeal to get the benefits you deserve.

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