Having an initial petition for Social Security disability benefits denied is certainly not the end of the road. For one, it is unfortunately common for disability petitions to be denied at first glance. The Social Security Administration denies a majority of such petitions each year. Nevertheless, federal law allows for a number of opportunities for claimants to have their benefits petitions reviewed. This post will highlight the levels of appeals petitioners can take advantage of.
Reconsideration – Claimants can have their petition reviewed by a different person. At this stage, they may resubmit the petition along with any new information to support their claim. Reconsideration can be made through informal, face-to-face meetings.
ALJ Hearings – A large majority of appeals are heard through hearings before an administrative law judge. Like a traditional court hearing, the claimant and witnesses (including physicians and family members and employers) testify under oath. The judge may also ask questions about the petition, and a ruling is made applying the law to the facts.
Appeals Council - The Appeals Council can review petitions after an ALJ ruling. It is essentially the highest level of review within the Social Security Administration. In some instances, the Appeals Council can send the petition back to an administrative law judge for reconsideration.
U.S. District Court – Claimants who are dissatisfied with rulings made within the Social Security Administration may file a civil suit in federal court.
With every level of appeal, timing is very important because of the strict timelines that are allowed. If you have questions about appeals, an experienced disability attorney can help.