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Appealing a denial of Social Security Disability benefits

Did you know that the government denies at least 80 percent of all applications for Social Security Disability benefits? That means that the odds of the Social Security Administration approving your claim the first time you submit an application don't look good.

Therefore, if you received a letter denying your request for benefits, you aren't alone. Fortunately, the SSA allows you to appeal its decision in writing. However, you only have 60 days from the date you received the denial letter to submit an appeal.

You don't get just one appeal

The way that the government set up the appeals process, you could go through the following levels of appeal:

  • The SSA reconsiders its denial: Your claim, in its entirety, gets reviewed by someone other than the person who made the first decision. Under most circumstances, you do not need to make an appearance during the reconsideration process.
  • An administrative law judge schedules a hearing: If you don't believe that the outcome of the reconsideration was correct, you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge who will then notify you of the place and time of the hearing. You may need to provide additional information prior to or at the hearing. You may bring witnesses as well. After the hearing, you will receive written notification of the judge's decision.
  • The Appeals Council may review the decision: If you disagree with the decision of the administrative law judge, you may request a review by the Appeals Council. You should know that the council may decide not to review your claim if it believes the decision at the hearing was the correct one. In any case, you do not need to appear before the council, and you receive written notification of its decision. 
  • Your claim could end up in federal court: Should you not agree with the Appeals Council, you may turn to the federal courts for help through the filing of a lawsuit.

If you currently receive benefits, you may request that they continue throughout the appeals process. You only have 10 days from the date you received the initial denial letter to make this request. In addition, the SSA may make you repay those benefits should your appeals fail.

Considering what you have at stake, you may want to gain a better understanding of what you face if you appeal the SSA's decision. You may find that obtaining assistance could make the difference between a successful appeal and not receiving much-needed benefits.

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