Most people have heard the horrors of the social security disability application process, from denials to confusing applications to years of waiting, the list of complaints goes on and on. Included in this difficult process is the fact that many claims get denied the first time around and must then go through the appeals process. So, for many people the question is: what does the appeals process look like and how long is it going to take?

For starters, after you file your initial claim, the Social Security Administration will thoroughly review that claim and will then send you a letter with their decision. If they have denied your claim and you disagree with that decision then you may file an appeal. You must file your request for an appeal in writing within 60 days of receiving the SSA decision letter. The fastest way to file your appeal is online through the SSA website, where you will be able to upload supporting documents with your appeal as well.

Once you have started the appeals process, there may potentially be four levels to the appeal: the reconsideration, hearing by an administrative law judge, review by the Appeals Council and Federal Court review. The reconsideration involves a complete review of your file by individuals who did not take part in the initial decision; the reconsideration does not require that you be present and a decision will be made based on the documentation in your file. If your claim is denied after the reconsideration, you may then proceed to a hearing. The hearing will be held before a judge and witnesses and other evidence may be presented.

If you disagree with the Judge’s decision after the hearing, you can take your appeal further to the Appeals Council where the Council will decide if your case should get a review; if your case is reviewed the council will either make a decision on the case or will return it to the Judge for further review. The final stage of the process is to have your appeal heard by a Federal Court.

As you can see, the SSDI appeals process can be quite lengthy and challenging. It is essential to consult with an experienced social security disability attorney to help you with your appeal and represent you throughout this challenging process.

Source: SSA.gov, The Appeals Process, accessed April 17, 2018.