Having a serious physical limitation due to an injury or illness is bad enough on its own. The financial issues you suffer because of your inability to continue working may have you pinning all your hopes on your application for Social Security Disability benefits. In this case, a denial may feel particularly devastating.
Fortunately, a denial does not have to be the end of the road. There is an appeals process:
- Reconsideration: Your denial letter explains the SSA’s decision, and it also includes instructions on how to appeal. Within 60 days, the SSA must receive your letter requesting the appeal, and it will assign your case to a different representative from the one who denied your original request. He or she will review all the information regarding your circumstances, including any new evidence that you may have provided.
- Hearing: If you are unhappy with the outcome of the reconsideration, you may ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge. SSA representatives may ask for clarification on points or ask you to bring further evidence to the hearing. You can bring your doctor, a vocational expert or other witnesses with you to testify about your disability.
- Appeals Council: The next stage in the appeals process is the SSA’s Appeals Council. This panel may deny your request for a review, review your case itself or send the case back before the administrative law judge for reconsideration. If it denies your request, you will receive a letter explaining the decision.
- Federal court: After exhausting your options within the SSA, you may take the denial to court. When you file a lawsuit, a federal district judge will hear your case and make the final decision of whether to grant you benefits.
If you are do not feel comfortable representing yourself before the SSA, you can appoint someone to represent you at any stage of the process.