Your disability significantly impairs your quality of life, so you may think it is obvious you should be awarded Social Security Disability benefits. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration rejects most first-time applications. However, you can challenge a rejection by going through the four levels of appeal: reconsideration, an administrative hearing, Appeals Council review and federal court review.
If your application for disability benefits is denied the first step in the appeals process is reconsideration. A person not involved in the initial decision will review your application to see if you should be awarded benefits. They will consider any evidence you submitted in your initial application along with any new evidence submitted.
If your application is denied at reconsideration the next level of appeal is a hearing before an administrative law judge. The hearing can be either in person or via video conference. Many people choose to be represented by an attorney at this step.
If the ALJ rejects your application, the next level of appeal is a review by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will either decline to review your case, review your case or return it to an ALJ for further review. The Appeals Council has the discretion to decide whether it will review your case.
Federal court review
If the Appeals Council rejects your application or chooses not to review it, your last option is to file a lawsuit in federal court. Many people choose to be represented by an attorney, as a federal court review is a complex proceeding that many people do not have any experience in.
Don’t get discouraged
It is normal to feel discouraged if your application for disability benefits is rejected. Fortunately, an initial rejection is not the end of the story. If you diligently work your way through the appeals process you may ultimately be awarded the benefits you deserve.