Social Security Disability Appeals

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Social Security Disability Appeals

Do not give up hope if you recently learned that your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was denied. According to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) own reports, only about 22 percent of first-time applicants are awarded benefits initially.

Fortunately, denial does not mean the end of the line. The Disability Law Firm can help you ask the SSA to reconsider its initial decision by filing an appeal. To learn more about your right to appeal, contact us for a free initial consultation.

When Do You Need to Appeal a Social Security Decision?

An “appeal” is a type of formal request you make to ask a higher authority to reconsider or reverse the decision of a lower authority. If you apply for SSDI or SSI benefits and the SSA denies your claim or decides not to award full benefits, you have the right to appeal the decision. Many claims the SSA denies at first are ultimately approved during the appeals process.

How to Appeal a Social Security Disability Ruling

After you file an initial claim for SSDI or SSI, the SSA will notify you of its determination. In that notice, there will be instructions telling you how to file an appeal if you disagree with the initial decision. 

Generally speaking, you must file your request for an appeal within 60 days of receiving the notice of the initial determination. If you fail to request an appeal by the deadline, you will lose your right to appeal the initial decision and will likely need to begin from scratch. 

SSD Appeals Process

Whether you are appealing a decision for an SSDI or SSI application, there are four main stages to the appeals process:


If you disagree with any aspect of the SSA’s initial determination, your first step will be to request a reconsideration. The reconsideration, which will be completed by someone not involved in the initial determination, involves a thorough re-evaluation of your claim plus any new evidence you provide. 

You can request a reconsideration online by visiting the SSA’s Appeal a Decision page. You can also print a hard copy of the Request for Reconsideration (SSA-561-U2) form and mail or fax the completed form to your local SSA office

You must submit your request for reconsideration within 60 days of receiving notice of the initial determination. If you are already receiving benefits and you file a written request for reconsideration within 10 days of receiving a determination notice, you may be eligible to continue receiving your usual payments until the SSA makes its reconsideration determination.


If you disagree with the SSA’s reconsideration determination, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will be someone who was not involved in either the initial decision or the reconsideration determination. 

You can request a hearing with an ALJ online or complete a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge (HA-501) form and submit it to your local SSA office. You must submit your hearing request within 60 days of receiving notice of the reconsideration determination.

When the SSA schedules your hearing, it will typically arrange the meeting within 75 miles of your residence. You may also elect to attend a virtual hearing via video. You should receive notice of the date and location at least 75 days in advance.

You or your attorney may submit additional evidence or information for your case up to five business days before the hearing. The ALJ may decide to speak with expert witnesses or ask you to complete additional medical exams. If you must sit for a medical exam, the SSA will schedule and pay for it on your behalf. After the hearing is complete, the judge will send you a copy of the determination.

Appeals Council Review

If you disagree with the ALJ’s determination after the hearing, you have the right to request a review by the Appeals Council. However, just because you request a review does not necessarily mean the Appeals Council will perform one. 

The Appeals Council has the authority to deny requests for review if it agrees with the ALJ’s hearing determination. If the Council determines a review is necessary, it will either return your case to an ALJ for review or decide your case itself.

You can go online to request an Appeals Council review or submit a completed Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order (HA-520) form to your local SSA office. After the Council completes its review, it will send you a copy of its determination and the reasons behind the decision.

Federal Court

If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s review determination or the Council declined to review your case, your last option in the appeals process is to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. You must file your lawsuit within 60 days of receiving the Appeals Council’s review determination. 

If the federal court decides your case needs further review, it may send your case back to the SSA or hold a new hearing and issue a final decision itself. The court can also order the SSA to either award you benefits or dismiss your case. 

There is currently no way to initiate a federal court review online, so if you are at this stage in your appeal, you should follow the guidance of a qualified attorney.

How Our Law Firm Helps Claimants Appeal SSD Denials

Working with an experienced SSD attorney may significantly improve your chances of having your claim approved. At the Disability Law Firm, we can help you throughout your initial claim or appeals process by:

  • Obtaining the medical records needed to demonstrate your disability
  • Helping you compile financial records to demonstrate your financial need
  • Working with medical professionals and vocational experts who can provide useful testimony about your disability or inability to work
  • Locating reliable witnesses whose testimony can support your case
  • Helping you manage important documents and filing deadlines for your appeal
  • Representing you during hearings and helping you prepare for questions

For More Information on SSD Appeals, Contact the Disability Law Firm

The knowledgeable Florida attorneys of the Disability Law Firm are here to support you at every stage of the Social Security Disability claims process, from the initial application all the way to filing a lawsuit in federal court, if necessary. 

For more information about how we can help with your SSD appeal, contact us today to get started with your free initial case review.

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