How to Request a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing
Learn how to get your Social Security Disability case in front of a judge, where you'll have the best chance at winning benefits.
If you are denied benefits after a reconsideration (or after a review of your initial application, for states like New York that do not have the reconsideration step), you have the right to request a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing.
How to Request a Disability Hearing in Front of an ALJ
There are three ways that you can apply to request a hearing in front of a judge:
- sending in forms, or
- writing a letter to your local Social Security office.
Please note that you must request a hearing in writing in one of the above ways. While you may call your local Social Security office for assistance with requesting a hearing, a phone call alone is not sufficient to request a hearing.
Eligibility. You can request a hearing online if you meet all of the following four criteria:
- You have applied for disability benefits.
- You have received a Notice of Decision.
- You disagree with the disability decision and want to file an appeal.
- You live in the United States or one of its territories.
Parts. There are two parts to the online request process.
- Disability Internet Appeal Application. This part asks you to update all of your personal information and indicate whether you are represented by a lawyer or a nonlawyer representative. This section will take approximately 20 minutes to complete.
- Disability Report. This part asks you to provide any new information about your health, including doctors and hospital visits and difficulties you've faced that would impede your ability to work. This section will take approximately 40 minutes to complete.
Saving your work. You will have the ability to sign off the website without losing the work you have already done. When you sign off you will be given a reentry number that will return you to your saved application when you sign back on to the website.
Information to have ready. Social Security recommends you gather the following information before you begin the online process, in order to insure that you can successfully complete the online forms.
- Your name, Social Security number, address, and phone number
- Your Notice of Decision or Notice of Reconsideration
- Your lawyer or representative's name, address, and phone number, if you have one
- The name, address, and phone number of a friend or relative who knows about your medical condition who can be used as a possible witness at your hearing
- Description of any changes and new medical conditions
- Name, address, phone number, type of treatment, and visit dates from medical appointments or hospital stays
- Name, location, and date for any medical tests you have had, and what health care professional sent you for them, and
- Names of medicine, both over the counter and prescription, that you are currently taking, who prescribed them, and any side effects.
Sending in the Appeal Forms
Generally, the primary form you need to file to get a hearing date is Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge, Form HA-501. You should fill out this form and bring it or send it to your local Social Security office. (Here's a sample of a filled-out HA-501 form).
This form has several purposes that will help kick off your appeal appropriately. In this form you can:
- state why you disagree with the determination by Social Security that you don’t qualify for disability benefits.
- notify Social Security that you will be submitting additional evidence to support your claim, and
- notify Social Security of your intent to attend the hearing in person. (Personal attendance is strongly encouraged.)
If you are not sure if this is the correct form to use for your situation, you can look at the denial letter that you received from Social Security for the specific form you need to submit. If the denial letter does not state which form to use or you are still unsure, you can call your local Social Security office or Social Security’s toll-free number at 800-772-1213.
With your request for a hearing form, or after you submit it, you will need to submit the following forms to Social Security:
- Disability Report- Appeal, Form SSA-3441 (sample)
- Authorization to Disclose Information to SSA, Form SSA-827
- Claimant’s Recent Medical Treatment, Form HA-4631
- Claimant’s Medication, Form HA-4632
- Claimant’s Work Background, Form HA-4633 (only needed if you have worked since you filed your disability application), and
- Appointment of Representative, Form SSA-1696 (only needed if you have a lawyer or representative),
Fill out and bring all of these forms or send them to your local Social Security office.
Writing a Letter to Social Security
If you are unclear as to what forms to complete or how to fill out a form to file a request for hearing, you can send a letter to your local Social Security office requesting a hearing. Social Security will provide the necessary help for you to complete your request and all of the necessary forms listed above.
Things to Keep in Mind When Filing a Request for Appeal
Importance of appeal deadline. If you do not request a hearing within the time frame noted below, you may permanently lose your ability to challenge the decision made in your case. You must file a request for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ) within 60 days of receiving your decision letter from Social Security. Since Social Security allots 5 days for you to receive your decision letter in the mail, you technically have 65 days from the date on the decision letter to request a hearing. If you fail to request a hearing by the deadline, you will have to start over at the beginning -- that is, file a new application -- unless you can demonstrate "good cause" for requesting a hearing after the deadline has passed.
Late requests. If you have good cause (a valid reason) for missing the filing date, Social Security may allow your request in after the deadline. A good excuse for missing the appeal deadline might be that you were in the hospital for a significant amount of time after receiving the decision letter. Other reasons falling under the good cause umbrella can include illness, comprehension problems due to mental infirmity, or other circumstances beyond an applicant's control. However, administrative law judges are not very lenient toward late requests for hearing appeals. If your disability appeal is not filed on time, it will most likely be dismissed.
Submitting new evidence. You should submit all new medical or other evidence within ten days of the date that you filed the request for a hearing. If you are not able to submit your new medical evidence within that time frame (for example, if you are waiting on medical records to arrive from a hospital stay), you may request an extension from the ALJ or Office of Disability Adjudication and Review to submit the new evidence.
Preparing for Your Administrative Hearing
Keep meticulous records of all your doctor appointments, surgeries, therapy, medications, and diagnostic tests. When possible, get copies of all recent records so that you have as much updated medical history as possible for the judge to review. In addition, you should:
- read why it makes sense to have an attorney represent you at the hearing
- find out who will be at your disability hearing
- learn how to improve your chances of winning at the hearing, and
- learn as much as you can about the Social Security disability hearing.