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The 4 levels in the SSDI appeals process

If you have enough work credits and a disability that interferes with your ability to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Convincing the Social Security Administration to approve your benefits application, though, may take some time. After all, the SSA denies as many as 67% of first-time applications for SSDI benefits.  

You should not let an initial denial dishearten you, as many SSDI applicants ultimately receive approval during the appeals process. There are four hierarchical levels you may go through to obtain the benefits you deserve.  

1. Reconsideration

Your first option is to ask the SSA to reconsider your application. At this stage, you provide additional details to support your claim, and a different official reviews your benefits application.  

2. Hearing

If your request for reconsideration does not end favorably, you may ask an administrative law judge to consider your claim. At the ALJ hearing, you are likely to testify about your disability and inability to work. Other witnesses may also testify.  

3. Appeals Council

The SSA Appeals Council is a panel that hears appeals of ALJ decisions. Unfortunately, the Appeals Council does not have to hear your case. If the Appeals Council rejects your request, you may have to proceed to the next appellate level.  

4. Federal court

Finally, if you have not received SSDI benefits after going through the other levels, you may file an action in U.S. district court. At this stage, an independent judge considers whether SSA officials made an error in denying your benefits application.  

While it may be tempting to give up after receiving a denial of your SSDI benefits, your denial may be just the first step in securing them. Continuing to gather information about your disability may boost your chances of winning approval during the appeals process.