What you should know about Social Security Disability appeals

For the majority of people who apply for Social Security Disability, especially those who apply without an attorney, the chances of having your application denied are quite high. Even for claims that involve serious injuries, they may be denied due to a lack of medical evidence or a failure to follow the application processes and deadlines. Here are some of the facts that you should know if your application has been denied.

If you are planning to appeal your application, it is highly recommended that you work with a Social Security Disability attorney to help prepare your appeals. Appeals can often focus on gaps in evidence or a failure to demonstrate the extent of your disability, and an attorney can help find and fix those issues in your appeal.

You can appeal your application denial within 60 days at any stage

When you apply for SSD, your application will be reviewed based on the medical evidence that you provide, along with any findings by the medical reviewer. If your application was denied at the first stage of the review, then you have 60 days to file a request for reconsideration of your application. This will send your application to a different medical reviewer, who will make an independent evaluation of your claim within three to five months.

Most applications that are denied at initial review are also denied at reconsideration. If your application has been denied after reconsideration, then you will have 60 days to appeal your application to an Administrative Law Judge. The wait times for this review can be between 12-24 months. The ALJ will review your case, along with the medical evidence, and hear your testimony at your hearing before making their own independent finding for your case. A vocational expert may also be at your hearing to assist the ALJ in categorizing your previous work if you have any.

Appealing an ALJ decision

Although you have a greater chance of being approved by an ALJ than at any other stage of the appeals process, there are still cases that are denied at this level as well. If you wish to appeal this denial, you can file a claim with the Appeals Council. The AC will review the ALJ’s opinion for legal or procedural errors, and the process normally takes longer than a year. The AC has a low rate of overturning ALJ decisions, however, if the AC rules against you there is one last level of appeal.

After the AC denies your appeal, the final place that you can appeal is to federal district court. This again will be looking at procedural or legal errors committed by the AC in their denial of your appeal.


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The Law Office of William C. Wombacher

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Peoria, IL 61602
NELF | National Elder Law Foundation
CAP | Council of Advanced Practitioners | NAELA | National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc.
Illinois State Bar Association