Many people in western New York have attempted to ease their financial burdens by applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, only to have their application denied. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has acknowledged that most initial applications for disability benefits are denied. Fortunately for many applicants, the regulations that govern the disability benefits process provide several methods for appealing an adverse decision. Knowing these appellate procedures can be an enormous benefit, especially for claimants represented by attorneys.
The first appellate step is a written request for reconsideration. A request for reconsideration must be submitted within 60 days of the notice of denial. The claimant can submit additional medical evidence and any written arguments that may help their case. The request will be considered by the same SSA field office that acted on the initial request.
If the request for reconsideration is denied, the applicant can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The hearing must be requested in writing not more than 60 days after the claimant receives notice of denial of the request for reconsideration. The hearing will be scheduled by the SSA for a time and place that best suits the convenience of the claimant. The hearing will be run by a lawyer employed by the SSA who has been trained in hearing procedures and relevant medical and legal issues. The applicant can call witnesses and submit additional medical evidence. The ALJ will hear the testimony and review the evidence; a written decision will be rendered in several weeks.
If the ALJ sustains the initial denial of benefits, the applicant can submit the case to the SSA Appeals Council for review. The Appeals Council reviews all cases submitted to it, but it may choose to deny relief if it believes that the initial decision was decided in accordance with SSA law and regulations. If the Appeals Council believes that the appeal is meritorious, it will make a new decision on the evidence and law presented to it, or it may remand the case to the ALJ for an amended decision.
Federal Court review
If the Appeals Council rejects the case, the claimant can bring a case in United States Federal District Court in the district where the applicant resides. The applicant must retain an attorney for this step. Retaining an attorney with experience in SSDI appeals at the outset of the case may be advisable because a knowledgeable lawyer can offer valuable assistance at every stage of the appellate process.