Q. My request for Social Security Disability benefits has been denied. How do I appeal?

A. Do not despair if your application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits is denied. Less than half of all claims are approved on the first submission. Persistence is one key to successfully reaching a favorable conclusion.

The Steps of Your Appeal

For your appeal to be successful, you must meet the strict deadlines imposed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Major deadlines in the appeal process include:

  • Request for Hearing: If you disagree with the initial decision, you may request a hearing. The Hearing is held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who will hear evidence and review documents submitted in support of your claim. The Hearing must be requested within 60 days of the denial of your initial decision. The ALJ may ask you for more evidence and to clarify information about your claim. There may also be medical or vocational experts present at the hearing to testify about your abilities and work available to an individual with your limitations based on your records and testimony.
  • Appeals Council Review: Should the Administrative Law Judge uphold the denial of benefits, or grant you a Partially Favorable Decision (only allowing a portion of your disability period), you have 60 days to petition for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council decides to review your case, it will either decide your case itself or return it to an administrative law judge for further review. At this stage, you can submit more evidence that may have been missing at the Hearing. You or your representative can also send a written argument stating why the ALJ’s decision should not stand. If your case was previously remanded by the Federal Court, the written argument must be filed within 30 days of the ALJ’s Decision.
  • Federal District Court: If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, or if the Appeals Council decides not to review your case, you may file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court within 60 days of the Appeals Council decision.
  • Request for Reconsideration: Some states have a level between the initial application stage and the hearing stage, called the Reconsideration stage. New York is NOT one of those states. In those states, before you file a Request for Hearing, you first need to Request a Reconsideration. The Appeal Request form and Appeal Disability Report must be delivered within 60 days of the date of the letter from SSA advising of the initial application denial decision. Reconsideration involves a complete review of your claim by someone who did not take part in the first decision. Social Security officials will look at all the evidence submitted when the original decision was made, plus any new evidence. Since New York does not have this level, you would appeal directly to the hearing level if your initial application is denied.