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Understanding the SSDI appeals system

Many residents of Oklahoma have endured the process of assembling and filing an application for Social Security Disability benefits only to have the claim denied. The size and complexity of the SSA often deters potential beneficiaries from pursuing their applications to the next level of administrative review. Understanding the appellate process can be an essential step to an ultimately successful SSDI application.

The first appellate step is to make a written request for reconsideration of the original decision. In this step, the applicant’s entire file will be reviewed by a person who had no role in evaluating or deciding on the original application. If the applicant disagrees with this decision and analysis, the next appellate step is to request a hearing by an administrative law judge.

Administrative law judges are generally attorneys who have received special training in evaluating SSDI appeals. The hearing is often conducted via a telephone conference call. The applicant usually presents all of the evidence that was submitted in support of the original application. The applicant can also present evidence that was not part of the original application. In many cases, the additional evidence takes the form of oral testimony by one or more health care providers who are knowledgeable about the disabling condition or illness.

If the administrative law judge affirms the original denial of the application, the applicant can ask for review by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can reject the appeal, return it to the administrative law judge for further review, or reverse the decision and grant the application. If the Appeals Council rejects the appeal, the applicant can then seek judicial review by any federal court with jurisdiction over the applicant.

Implicit in the foregoing description is the assistance that can be obtained from an experienced disability benefits attorney. A capable attorney can assist in every step, including preparing the initial application and any appellate steps that may follow. If judicial review is deemed necessary, such an attorney is essential to preparing and filing the court case.

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