SSDI denial appeals processThe Social Security Administration (SSA) has a defined appeals process. It can be frustrating when you submit a request for appeal and you’re not sure when you’ll hear back from them. The timeline can vary depending on many factors. If the SSA is currently facing a higher than normal volume of appeals, this may delay their response. 

When it comes to the second stage of appeal with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you can expect several updates. Working with an experienced disability lawyer can help with this process. They can stay in touch with the court and SSA to manage your claim and appeal.

Did SSA Deny Your SSDI Claim?

You’re not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies upwards of 70 percent of disability claims. This is based on the initial assessment. The SSA may decide that the medical condition is not severe enough to stop you from working. Or, it may not think that your medical condition qualifies under its Blue Book definitions.

However, about 45 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims are denied for technical or non-medical reasons. That’s about two-thirds of the denials. An experienced attorney can help you appeal a technical SSDI denial. They can put together the strongest case possible and improve your chances of approval. 

How to Appeal Your SSDI Claim Decision

If the SSA denies your original SSDI claim application, you have the right to appeal. There are four levels of appeal. 

  1. Reconsideration. Start by requesting SSA to review your initial SSDI application again. They’ll take a look at your claim through a fresh set of eyes. It’s as if you are sending in a brand new application. For this independent review, you can add new evidence you forgot to include the first time around.
  2. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The second step is to file an appeal with an ALJ. This involves a live court hearing. It could be in-person or via phone or video conference. It is considered an official courtroom proceeding with testimony under oath. You and your SSD lawyer will have the chance to present your case before an independent federal judge.
  3. Appeals Council. If your appeals for reconsideration and to the ALJ are unsuccessful, you can bring your case to the Appeals Council. You can request a review. They can then deny or dismiss your request, or bring it back to a judge for further review.
  4. Federal District Court. This is the fourth and highest level of appeal. You can file a federal district court action with the U.S. District Court. A federal judge will hear your case without a jury. If you don’t already have legal representation, you definitely need an experienced lawyer at this stage.

Examples of Typical Updates and What They Mean

If you want to appeal the SSA’s decision, it is important to act quickly. Generally, you have 60 days after receiving your Social Security Disability denial letter to appeal. This appeal is a formal, written request. The reconsideration stage often takes many months. So, you may not hear from them in a while. Your lawyer can help follow up for updates.

If they deny your request for reconsideration, you then have 60 days to request an ALJ hearing. This starts a new process with a few key stages. An attorney can improve your chances of winning your appeal. 

  1. Pending folder assembly. During this stage, the ALJ and your lawyer compile your case file. They collect documents like medical evidence and work history. The information is organized in a folder for the judge to consider.
  2. Pending ALJ assignment. The case file is complete. Now, it must be assigned to an ALJ. This could take several months.
  3. Ready to schedule. The case has been assigned to an ALJ and is now waiting for a court date.
  4. Hearing date. The hearing before an ALJ is scheduled. You and your lawyer appear before the judge to present your case. This could be in person, over the phone, or via video conference.
  5. Post-hearing development. If the ALJ did not receive additional evidence at the hearing, the case can be held in this status. Once the evidence is submitted and reviewed, it can move on to the next phase.
  6. Post-hearing review. The ALJ is reviewing the evidence to make a decision. You cannot submit any more evidence. 
  7. Pending decision writing. It can take about two months before the ALJ begins writing the formal decision on your appeal case. 
  8. Decision writing process. The ALJ has made a decision. You should receive a formal written decision by mail within 60 days. 

How a Massachusetts SSD Lawyer Can Help

Navigating the appeals process can be complicated. There can be a lot of paperwork. There can be many steps involved. Technical errors, typos, and missing documents can leave your application hanging for months. 

An experienced SSD attorney can help you avoid some of the common mistakes in an SSDI appeal. By compiling the most complete and most compelling case possible, a lawyer can improve your chances of winning your appeal. They can keep track of updates and guide you through the whole process. 

Call to Book a Free Consultation

Has your Social Security disability claim been denied? We can help. Call our office at 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847. You can also complete our online contact form. During your free consultation, we can assess your case and decide on the best next steps. Let’s make sure your SSDI application is in order for the best chance at approval. Let’s get the benefits and support you need and deserve.

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law