What to Expect from the Social Security Disability Appeal Process
If you receive a Notice of Denial, you have only 60 days to file an appeal. Our attorneys specialize in disability claims—that’s all they do! If we accept your case, we’ll help you through the process from beginning to end, even representing you in court, if necessary.
While the appeals process can vary across states, this is what you can expect in most states.
Request for Reconsideration
In most states the first step is Reconsideration. During this phase of the process, your disability claim will be reviewed again by a different State Disability Examiner. Champion Disability Advocates will:
- File your Request for Reconsideration and the Disability Update Report online for you.
- Ensure your case stays on track.
- Coordinate with you and the Disability Examiner any additional developments that may be needed.
Request for Hearing
If the State Disability Examiner does not make a fully favorable decision at the Reconsideration level, or if you live in a State where they do not do the Reconsideration, the next step is the Request for Hearing. Champion Disability Advocates will:
- File your Request for Hearing and Disability Update Report online for you.
- Request a copy of your electronic file from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and review all the information used to make the original decision about your claim.
- Work with you to develop your case. While your appeal is underway, we will work with you to collect and organize your medical records. When necessary, we’ll send you to a specialist (at no cost to you) to evaluate your physical and emotional capacity to work.
- Strive to get your claim approved in the shortest possible time. If we see a way to get your claim approved without waiting for a hearing, we will ask the judge for a “decision on the record” to do just that.
- Stay in touch with you and update your Social Security file while you are waiting for a hearing date.
- Prepare you for your hearing. You will practice what you say with your attorney. You will understand what the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) likely will want to know about how your physical and mental conditions affect your ability to work.
One of the Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) will conduct your hearing. Sometimes, the ALJ is there in person. Other times, the ALJ conducts the hearing by video conference. You and your attorney will be together, usually in a conference room. Some ALJs like to ask you questions directly. Other ALJs ask your attorney to ask you questions. Either way, before the ALJ closes the record of your hearing, your attorney will make sure your testimony is on the record in the best way.
Usually, the ALJ will also have a vocational expert at the hearing to testify about whether there are jobs you could do, given your physical and emotional conditions. Your attorney will also be able to cross-examine this witness.
Everything said during your hearing is recorded. The ALJ may close the record at the hearing. In unusual situations, the ALJ may hold the record open for additional medical evidence. When all evidence is in, the ALJ will close the record and make a decision. The ALJ may approve your claim fully or partially. He or she also can deny your claim.
Beyond the Hearing
Once the judge has made a decision about your claim, your attorney will discuss options with you. If the decision was not favorable, you do have options.
- You can ask for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. If you do this, your Champion Disability Advocates attorney will file the request and continue to develop your case and guide you through the process.
- You can file an appeal in Federal Court. If your case is denied by the Social Security Appeals Council, you may choose to file another appeal. This situation is rare, but it does happen. We have attorneys to help you with this.
Your Champion Disability Advocates attorney will help you decide if either of these options is right for your situation.