Social Security Disability Appeals: Reconsideration, Hearing, Council, Court

Three are either three or four levels of disability appeals, depending on the state you live in.

Appeals are offered to Social Security disability and SSI claimants after all levels of decisions, save the last --  federal district court. (When claimants lose in federal court, they can either give up or start a brand new claim for monthly disability benefits and backpay.)

The first appeal available to a disability claimant in most states is the reconsideration ("recon" in Social Security lawyer lingo). A reconsideration may be requested after the denial of an initial claim (within 60 days from the date of the denial). Learn more about the reconsideration review.

In the following states, the reconsideration review step has been eliminated:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • California (Los Angeles North and Los Angeles West Branches only)
  • Colorado
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New York, and
  • Pennsylvania.

The second appeal available in most states to a disability claimant is the hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). An "ALJ hearing" may be requested after the denial of a reconsideration (again, within 60 days from the date of the recon's denial). Learn more about the appeal hearing.

The third appeal available to a disability claimant is a review by the Appeals Council of an ALJ's decision. 

At the Appeals Council, a judge's decision may be reviewed for errors that are either technical in nature (for example, applying the wrong "age rules" to a claimant and denying their claim on that basis) or more substantial (such as failing to consider medical evidence that was available at the time of the hearing).

The Appeals Council has available to it several options:

  • Reversing a judge's decision and granting an approval.
  • Remanding a case (that is, finding fault with a judge's decision and ordering that a second hearing be held), or
  • Issuing another denial (the wording of this type of denial letter states "your request for review is denied").

(Learn more about the Appeals Council process.)

The fourth and final appeal available to a disability claimant is a suit filed in federal district court. This option can be utilized when a claimant's case has been denied by the Appeals Council.

For additional information regarding Social Security Disability appeals and SSI disability appeals, the following links may be helpful:

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