The application process for disability benefits can be long and complicated, and you may need to strategize ways to survive while your application is pending. Thus, having this process culminate in denial can be discouraging.
It is important to keep in mind that, although disappointing, a denial is not the end of the road. Applicants have a real chance of receiving the benefits they need as a result of appealing. Following all the steps of the appeals process correctly can help you achieve success in this endeavor.
Reconsideration with the SSA
The first step after receiving the denial is to file a Request for Reconsideration. This request goes back to the Social Security Administration. At this stage, most applicants receive another denial. While frustrating, this step is a mandatory part of the appeals process. You will not be able to continue to the next stage without first submitting this Request and waiting for a decision.
Hearing before Administrative Law Judge
After the second denial, you will be able to request a hearing, which takes place in front of an Administrative Law Judge and is generally less formal than a regular court proceeding. The judge will review the file of your prior submissions to the SSA. He or she may also instruct you to undergo further, specific medical examinations or testing. You can testify at your hearing, and you may also get your medical providers or other experts to testify on your behalf.
The judge's decision can confirm the denial or reverse it, awarding you benefits. The decision can also award a portion of the benefits you seek if the judge determines your period of disability did not last as long as you claim it did.
If the judge denies or only awards partial benefits, you can file a further appeal of that decision with the Social Security Disability Appeals Council, which consists of a group of judges. Unlike the preceding steps, these judges will no longer be looking at your evidence to figure out whether you should receive benefits. Rather, they examine the judge's decision and analyze whether its reasoning was legally correct. In some types of cases, denial at this stage can be appealed to the federal district court.