Updated September 28, 2018
How do you start an appeal for Social Security or SSI disability once you've been denied? The first appeal available (in most states) is called a "reconsideration." In a reconsideration review, a different disability claims examiner at DDS (Disability Determination Services) reviews your disability application and medical records to see if the first decision was correct.
You can now file your appeal online at the Social Security website. Go to www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/appeal.html to file an appeal online. You can choose to file a "medical reconsideration" if your claim was denied because your condition wasn't severe enough, or a non-medical reconsideration if you were denied because you had too much income or you weren't insured for SSDI).
If you'd rather file by mail, the forms needed to start the appeal are Request for Reconsideration (Form SSA-561) and Disability Report-Appeals. Completing the paperwork for a reconsideration is fairly easy. Here's a sample of a filled-out Request for Reconsideration and a filled-out Disability Report for Appeals to help guide you.
If you've been seen by your doctor or doctors recently, or have been seen by a new doctor or clinic, make sure to include this information. If you have any new impairments or limitations or your condition has worsened, include this as well. If you realized that you left something out of your initial application, you can add it now. The new DDS examiner may request your medical records, but generally, not much will have changed in your condition since the reconsideration review takes place only a few weeks or months after the initial decision.
A failure to appeal within the 60-day time frame will result in an "untimely appeal," meaning that you would have to file a brand new SSDI or SSI claim to be considered for disability benefits.
There are exceptions for "good cause" to this deadline. Such exceptions generally include illness, hospitalization, or other extenuating circumstances that might account for the late filing of a SSDI or SSI disability appeal. Often, Social Security claims representatives are somewhat lenient when it comes to the late filing of a reconsideration request, if the individual has a good reasonable reason for filing their request late.
Overall, your chances of winning a reconsideration are quite low—in 2018, 87% of cases were denied on reconsideration review. Unless you submit new, convincing medical information or your condition has deteriorated, your claim will probably be denied again. (One reason that the rate of approval is so much higher at an ALJ hearing is that it takes a year or two to get a hearing scheduled, and during that time, many people's medical conditions get worse. Because reconsiderations happen so quickly, that's not a factor in reconsideration reviews. Learn how long it takes to get an answer on a reconsideration.)
In some states, the reconsideration stage of appeal has been eliminated. In these states, an applicant who has been denied benefits can immediately request a disability hearing:
If you requested a reconsideration online, you can check the status of the reconsideration on Social Security's website by signing into your Social Security account (you can go back to the appeals page to sign in to your account).
If you appealed by mail, before you send in the reconsideration request, make a copy of what you mail to the Social Security Administration for your personal records. One to two weeks after sending in your appeal, call the Social Security office to verify that it was received. If they have no record of having received it, make another copy of the copy you have and mail it in again. And, once again, make a follow up call after you mail it. Don't be surprised if you don't get a response on your reconsideration right away.
Of course, if you are represented by an attorney who handles Social Security disability and SSI disability cases, your attorney will start the appeal process for you. How will your attorney know that you've been denied and, consequently, know when to start your appeal? When you retain an attorney to handle a disability claim, the attorney will have you complete an "appointment of representative" form allowing Social Security to send notices to your attorney. Just the same, though, if you get denied on your claim, you should still contact your disability attorney—just in case the attorney does not receive his or her copy of the notice.