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—the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are the various levels of appeal.


The first appeal available to a disability claimant in most states is the request for reconsideration ("recon" in Social Security lingo). A reconsideration must be requested within 60 days of the denial of an initial disability claim.

In the following states, the reconsideration review step was eliminated temporarily, but it is being added back in 2019 or early 2020:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Michigan, and
  • Missouri.

If a claimant requests a reconsideration, a second disability claims examiner will take a look at the file and make a new decision. Learn more about the reconsideration review.

ALJ Hearing

The second level of 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).

In the four states listed above, the ALJ hearing is the first level of appeal. In these states, an applicant has 60 days from the denial of the initial claim to request a hearing.

Learn more about the appeal hearing.

Appeals Council

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 several options available to it:

  • 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.

Federal Court

    The final level of appeal available to a disability claimant is a suit filed in federal 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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