Social Security Disability:

Appeals Process

If the Social Security Administration denies your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you have the right to appeal. If you choose to appeal the decision, you must send a written request within 60 days of receiving the denial letter. You will be allowed a five-day grace period to cover the mail delay, unless you can prove it arrived later.

In most cases, there are four steps in appealing a denied social security benefits claim. The four levels are reconsideration, hearing by an administrative law judge, Appeals Council Review and Federal Court Review.


During the reconsideration step, your claim will be reviewed by an individual that was not involved in making the original decision. This individual will examine the evidence submitted with the original claim, as well as any new evidence you submit. In most cases, you will not need to be present during the review of your files. However, if you are appealing a decision that you can no longer receive disability benefits because your condition has improved, you may want to be present during the reconsideration.


If you do not approve of the reconsideration decision, you can ask for a hearing. An administrative law judge who was not involved in the original decision or the reconsideration will handle the hearing. He or she will notify you of the time and location of the hearing. Before the hearing, the Social Security Administration may ask for more evidence to support your claim. You will be allowed to look at your file and offer new information.

During the hearing, the administrative law judge will question you and your witnesses (doctors, vocational experts, etc.) about your disability claim. You or your social security lawyer will also be given the opportunity to question the witnesses.

If you cannot make the hearing, you must send a written letter explaining your reasons for not attending. Unless the administrative law judge believes your presence is absolutely necessary, the hearing will go on without you. Alternative arrangements, such as changing the location or date of the hearing, may also be made if you wish to attend the hearing. However, good reason must be presented to change the details of the hearing.

Following the hearing, the administrative law judge will come to a decision, which will be mailed to you.

Appeals Council

If you do not agree with the decision from the hearing, you can ask for a review by the Social Security’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will look over all requests, but has the power to deny a request if they agree with the hearing decision. If the Appeals Council chooses to hear your case, it will decide your case itself or turn it over to an administrative law judge for further evaluation.

If the Appeals Council chooses not to review your case, you will receive a letter explaining their reasons for doing so. If the Appeals Council reviews your case itself, you will receive a copy of the decision. If your case is turned over to an administrative law judge, you will receive a letter and a copy of the order.

Federal Court

If you still do not agree with the Appeals Council’s decision or if they decline to review your case, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court.

If you need help during any step of the appeals process, fill out our free case evaluation form to speak to a qualified social security attorney. You have the right to representation during the appeals process, so not hesitate to speak with a social security lawyer. Contact us today for a free case evaluation from a social security lawyer near you.