The four levels of appeal for Social Security Disability benefits

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2021 | Social Security Disability

When people in New Jersey apply for Social Security Disability benefits, they often face a denial after the initial stage. While these applicants may have serious disabilities preventing them from working or returning to their jobs, less than one-quarter of initial SSDI claims are approved, and up to 70% are denied at the first stage. This does not mean that you will never receive the disability benefits that you need. Instead, this is your opportunity to move on to the first stage of the four-stage SSDI appeals process.

Beginning the appeals process

The first level of appeal for a denied SSDI benefits claim is a request for reconsideration. This kind of reconsideration appeal takes place at the same level as the original application, but it involves a different disability examiner and medical consultant. A reconsideration appeal can be requested online or at a local Social Security office. In around 10 to 15% of cases, a reconsideration appeal is successful in helping an applicant to receive disability benefits.

Hearing before an administrative law judge

However, the next step of the appeals process is often the most important for many disability benefits applicants. If you were denied at the reconsideration level, you can proceed to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The administrative law judge hearing offers the disability applicant and their attorney to introduce additional information and medical evidence and answer questions directly about their experiences. Half of all SSDI applicants who appeal to an ALJ hearing receive the benefits sought, and people are more likely to be successful when represented.

There are two higher stages of appeal as well for applicants who were unsuccessful at an ALJ hearing. The Appeals Council randomly selects from the requests it receives and looks primarily for legal errors or a broad policy issue in determining whether to grant an appeal. Further, applicants can seek federal court review of the outcome, which can be a more lengthy process. Understanding the appeals process can help applicants to plan their applications for the benefits they need.