After you apply for SSDI, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send a letter with their decision. If you get a denial letter, it can be disheartening. However, there is still hope. You can appeal a SSDI decision if you feel it was wrong.
There are different stages of the SSDI appeal method. The process starts with you asking for an appeal.
How Can I Appeal a SSDI Denial?
If Social Security denied your benefits, you can request an appeal right away. You must provide an appeal request in writing and within 60 days.
If the SSA denied your claim for medical reasons, you can apply online or through Form SSA-561. Many people choose to file their requests online because it’s the fastest option. When you request online, you can uphold documents for your appeal.
You do not have to live in the United States to file an online appeal. You can start the appeal process online if you live outside of the country.
What Are the SSDI Levels of Appeal?
There are four primary levels of SSDI appeal:
- Administrative law judge hearing
- Appeals Council review
- Federal Court review
Your letter from the SSA will detail how you can appeal the decision. Let’s look at what you can expect from each appeal level.
Request a Reconsideration
Requesting a reconsideration is the first step. When you ask for this review, an entirely different person will look over your claim. That person will evaluate all of your evidence from before plus anything new you provide.
Before requesting a review, it’s smart to speak with a Social Security Disability lawyer. The SSA often denies claims because there was not enough evidence. A lawyer can determine why you did not receive benefits and what you need to change to improve your chances.
Most of the time, you do not need to be present for a reconsideration. However, SSA sometimes denies benefits when they claim a condition has improved. If that describes your case, you can meet with an SSDI representative to plead your case.
Administrative Law Judge Hearing
After the reconsideration request, the SSA will send you a decision. If you disagree with the decision, you can request a hearing.
- An administrative law judge will handle your hearing. They will let you know the time and place.
- The judge will be someone who was not involved in your first decision or reconsideration.
- The hearing is usually held within 75 miles of where you live.
You will have a chance to provide more evidence for your case before the hearing. The judge will ask you questions. You can bring certain witnesses, such as medical experts, to the hearing too. Your lawyer can also attend the hearing.
Sometimes, the SSA will schedule a video hearing, which usually happens sooner than an in-person hearing. Wherever the hearing occurs, it’s best if you are present to support your claim. If you cannot attend a hearing, you must let the SSA know why in writing.
When the hearing is over, the judge will decide your case. They will consider all current and new information. You will receive a letter explaining the judge’s decision.
Appeals Council Review
If the hearing does not end in a good decision, you can request an Appeal Council review:
- The Appeals Council will look at all review requests.
- If the Council believes your hearing decision was right, they might deny your claim.
- If the Council chooses to review the request, it will make a decision or send your case to another administrative law judge.
You will receive a letter with a denial of your request or the Appeals Council or judge decision.
Federal Court Review
Finally, you can file a lawsuit if you disagree with the above decisions. When you get your letter about the Appeals Council decision, there will be instructions for this step.
If you don’t already have one, get a Social Security lawyer for the federal court review. You will need an experienced attorney who can fight for your rights. Your lawyer can strengthen your case as much as possible to show why you need SSDI benefits.
Can You Still Get SSDI Benefits During the Appeal Process?
It depends. You might be able to ask the SSA to continue your benefits until you receive a decision. It’s a possibility if:
- You’re appealing because the SSA has decided you are no longer disabled.
- You’re appealing a decision about discontinuing, reducing, or suspending Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Let the SSA know within 10 days of getting your letter if you want to keep receiving benefits. Keep in mind that you might have to pay back the money if you do not get benefits.
Do You Need a Representative?
You do not have to get help with your case. The SSA allows you to handle your appeal alone. However, we highly recommend having an SSDI lawyer to support you.
Anyone who helps with your case is your representative. Your representative will get copies of most documents we send you. They can also act for you during the process. The SSA can interact with your representative in the same way they do with you.
Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer for Free Today
Don’t give up hope after an SSDI denial. You can request an appeal to try getting benefits. At John Foy & Associates, we can help you with each step of the appeal process.
With over 20 years of experience, we know what the SSA is looking for in a claim. We can help you present old and new evidence in the best way possible. To schedule a FREE consultation, call (404) 400-4000, or contact us online.