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Understanding Social Security disability appeals rights

Every year, many Missourians apply for Social Security disability benefits, and their applications are approved. Unfortunately, a great number of Missourians are denied Social Security disability benefits. In this post, we will provide a summary of various rights to request and pursue an SSD appeal.

"Appeal" is a broad term that includes four separate and different processes. Generally speaking, a claimant must have his or her claim rejected before an appeal to the next level can be taken. The four levels are:

  • Reconsideration
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge
  • Review by the SSA appeals council, and
  • Federal court review.

A request for reconsideration seeks review of the application by a person who did not take part in the original decision. An application need not be present in person for a reconsideration. If the reconsideration does not yield a favorable decision, the next step is a hearing before an administrative law judge. An applicant can call witnesses and offer additional evidence that may not have been included with the original application. If the decision of the administrative law judge is unfavorable, an applicant can submit his or her case to the SSA's appeals council. The appeals council can deny the request, reverse the decision or return the case to an administrative law judge for further review. Federal court review is a complex process that almost always requires representation by an attorney.

Each step in the appeals process has specific deadlines. If a deadline passes with no action by the claimant, all further appeals will be forfeited. Anyone who has had a disability claim denied may wish to speak with a lawyer who specializes in help people with their SSD benefits claims. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate the case and help draft the necessary documents to carry the case to the next appellate level.

Source: Social Security Administration, "The Appeals Process," accessed on April 23, 2016

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