Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is a government program providing financial aid to people who have a medical condition expected put them out of work for at least a year or result in their death. The program helps people who have fallen on hard times, but sometimes the system doesn’t work as it should.
For instance, many people have their claim denied, initially. However, if you or a loved one has had your SSDI application denied, you may appeal the initial decision. There are four levels of SSDI appeals:
The first stage in an appeal is reconsideration. During this process, a person who was not involved in your initial SSDI decision will re-evaluate your case using both the evidence you first presented and any new evidence you have. The evaluator will determine if you’re eligible to receive disability benefits.
Administrative law judge hearing
If reconsideration is unsuccessful, the next step is to schedule a hearing with an administrative law judge. The hearing will take place within 75 miles of your residence, or, in some cases, you may be able to schedule a video hearing.
Before the hearing, the Social Security Administration may ask for additional evidence to support your case.
Though it’s not mandatory, it is often in your best interest to attend your hearing. At the hearing, the judge will question you and any witnesses you bring with you. Medical and vocational experts might also be at the hearing to provide evidence. The judge will then make a decision.
If you disagree with the administrative law judge’s decision, the next escalation is to bring your case to the appeals council. The appeals council will consider each case presented, but if it decides the earlier denial was correct, it may refuse to take up your case.
The appeals council will either make a decision on your case itself or send the case back to the administrative law judge for reconsideration.
The final option is to sue in federal district court. There you can present evidence and bring witnesses, and the judge will determine if the Social Security Administration was incorrect in denying your disability claim.
Ask for help
If you or a loved one is dealing with a disability, you’re already in a tough spot. Finding your way through the SSDI process can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, legal help available to people whose claims have been denied.