Social Security Disability Appeals Process with signWhen a disability prevents you from working and engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), monthly Social Security Disability (SSDI) payments can help replace a portion of your lost income. Unfortunately, getting approved for the benefits you need and deserve can be difficult. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies the majority – roughly 70 percent – of initial SSDI claims. Though you have the right to appeal, the appeals process itself can be challenging. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through it alone. A disability attorney can help you navigate your appeal and increase your chances for approval. Here’s what you should know about the third level of a Social Security disability appeal, the Appeals Council Review, and how the knowledgeable and experienced Boston SSDI attorneys at Keefe Disability Law can assist you.

The Social Security Disability Appeals Process: An Overview 

The SSDI appeals process has four levels: Reconsideration, Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Appeals Council Review, and Federal Court Review. Though you have four opportunities to dispute a denied SSDI claim, benefits can be awarded at any stage. As a result, it may not be necessary to complete every appeals level. 

Requesting an Appeals Council Review 

If your SSDI appeal was unsuccessful at the Reconsideration and ALJ Hearing stages, the next step is to request an Appeals Council Review. There are several ways to do this: You can submit the request through the SSA website, download the appropriate form and mail it to the Appeals Council, or visit your local Social Security office to complete the request form in person. You must submit your request for an Appeals Council Review within 60 days of receiving the unfavorable hearing decision. The Appeals Council can either grant, deny, or dismiss your request for review. It is more likely to grant a review if it identifies a flaw in the case, such as legal errors, procedural issues, decisions unsupported by evidence, or abuse or bias by the ALJ.

What an SSDI Appeals Council Review Entails 

If the Appeals Council grants your request, it will review the ALJ hearing decision, as well as your entire SSDI case file and any new evidence or information you submit. From there, the Appeals Council can choose to uphold the ALJ’s decision, issue a new decision awarding benefits, or send the case back to the ALJ for reconsideration.

Unfortunately, your chances of winning SSDI benefits at this stage are small; the Appeals Council only awards benefits in about 1 percent of cases. However, the chances of having your cases remanded back to the ALJ for review are better; this happens in roughly 10 percent of SSDI claims the Appeals Council accepts. Though your chances for success at the Appeals Council Review level are less than encouraging, you must complete this step before you can move on to the final appeal level and file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Why You Need a Skilled Disability Lawyer to Handle Your SSDI Application or Appeal

The SSDI application and appeals processes can be grueling – and if you’ve made it all the way to the Appeals Council Review stage, you likely know this more than most. Don’t give up and don’t go it alone. Working with an adept disability lawyer when completing your application or appealing a denial of your SSDI claim can help you avoid common mistakes and relieve the stress that can come with fumbling your way through an unfamiliar process. Let our skillful Boston attorneys fight for the benefits you deserve while you focus on your health and getting the medical treatments you need.

Schedule a Consultation 

Have questions about an SSDI application or denial and appeal? Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a complimentary consultation to have your questions answered by a member of our accomplished legal team. For more information, request a free download of Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.


Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law