How do Social Security Disability and SSI appeals work?

If your initial Social Security Disability claim is denied, you must contact the Social Security Administration and file an appeal. You must file your appeal within the appeals period (you have sixty days from the date of your last denial to file a disability appeal); if you are late you may have to start the disability process again with a new claim.

Once you have filed your appeal, your disability claim will go back to the state disability agency (in many states, this agency is known as DDS) for another decision with a different disability examiner.

However, do not be discouraged if you do not receive an approval. Even though the claim has a different decision maker on the appeal, the fact is that the rules for processing the disability claim remain the same. This makes it likely that the first appeal you file (known as a request for reconsideration) will be denied. In fact, in many states eight or nine out of ten reconsiderations are denied.

If your reconsideration is denied, you must file a hearings request with the Social Security Administration. This appeal is formally known as a request for hearing before an administrative law judge. Administrative law judges hold hearings at which claimants and their disability attorneys may appear. This is very unlike the application level or the reconsideration level in which the claimant never gets to see the decision maker for their SSD or SSI case.

Disability judges, i.e. administrative law judges, are allowed to take more factors into consideration while making their decisions and they are not bound by the strict rules and regulations that the state disability agency uses. What does this mean? It means more disability claim approvals.

For example, while only about a third of all disability applications are approved at the first step in the process, disability judges typically approve more than half of all cases heard by them. And this percentage is even higher for claimants who go to hearings with attorneys.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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