My disability claim was denied. What happens next?

If you have filed a claim for disability benefits and it was denied then you may be wondering what options you have for moving forward. Applying for disability can be very confusing for those not dealing with it on a daily basis and it’s important that you be familiar with the appeals process.

Chances are you don’t agree with the Administration’s decision in which case you can file an appeal, asking the Administration to review your case again. As with everything when the federal government is involved, there’s a regimented process that must be followed. If you want an appeal, and you should, you need to make a written request within 60 days of receiving the Administration’s official letter denying your initial claim.

In most states (several states have eliminated the reconsideration step) there are four levels of the Social Security appellate process. The first is known as reconsideration and it involves a full review of your case by someone who was not involved in the first go-round. New evidence will be considered during this phase as well as the evidence that was part of your initial claim. Your presence is not required during this phase of the appellate process.

If after the reconsideration you are still not satisfied with the outcome, you can move on to a second level of review, a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will serve as a completely neutral party and will not have been part of either the first review or the second round reconsideration. At this hearing before the ALJ you will be permitted to call witnesses on your behalf and the ALJ is empowered to ask questions of those who testify at the hearing. You can and should be represented at the hearing and, if you are, your representative will also be permitted to question witnesses at the hearing. After listening to all of the evidence and reviewing the previous decisions in your claim process, the ALJ will make a decision and the SSA will send you the judge’s final opinion in writing.

The third step of appeals process involves a review by the aptly named Appeals Council. If the Council believes that the ALJ made the right decision, the Appeals Council will not review the case and the decision of the ALJ will stand. The Appeals Council can also choose to disagree with the ALJ directly or remand the case back to the ALJ for further consideration. You will, as always, be notified in writing once the Council has made a decision.

The fourth and final level of review is to file a lawsuit in the nearest federal district court. It will be handled like any other lawsuit. At every stage of the process, it’s wise to have the help of counsel, but if you are going to appeal the decision of the Administration, you should absolutely contact an experienced attorney. If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.