No matter how disabled you might be, the chances of getting bad news from the Social Security Administration (SSA) is high. When you can no longer work at your job because of a medical condition, it can be tough to find that denial letter in your mailbox, but you are far from alone. You must realize that the SSA has extremely high standards for every aspect of your application process and it's far too easy to end up having your claim rejected.
Keep in mind that you must go through each step in the order shown below. Additionally, there are strict time limits for requesting each and every one of the below steps. Fortunately, the SSA provides the means for a second (and more) chance at benefits so read on to learn more about the SSA appeals process for disability claims.
The Reconsideration Review
Not all states participate in this particular step, some move right into the first appeal. This first step involves having a new SSA claims examiner review your file which contains your application and supporting documents like medical records. Unless you have additional supporting evidence to support your disability claim your chances of an approval at a reconsideration review are low.
Administrative Law Judge Review
This is an informal meeting presided over by an administrative law judge. You can (and should) have legal counsel and witnesses with you at your hearing. If you have additional evidence of your disability, you should be prepared to present it here. Your hearing will likely include a vocational expert. This person works for the SSA and is skilled in the job market, tasks required to do various jobs and how your disability could affect those things. These hearings are usually short; about 15-30 at most and you will hear of the results by mail within a few weeks. If you are again denied you can move to the next step.
The Appeals Council
Here the decision of the administrative law judge is reviewed for errors. For example, the ruling may site an SSA provision in the denial at that hearing level. If the provision cited is inappropriate to your particular case then the denial is overturned, and you may be approved for benefits.
The final option is to file suit against the SSA. If you have managed to get this far without the help of an attorney, then one is now required. This is an actual law court filing, but not all of these cases end up in a courtroom where you will need to testify. This is more of a paperwork battle as each side trades documentation and evidence to support their cases. This is your final chance as far as the appeals process goes, but you do have the option to begin the application process again from the start. Speak to a Social Security Disability lawyer to learn more.