If you apply for Social Security Disability and the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your claim, you have not reached the end of the process. You and your Social Security attorney should follow a four-step appeal process in sequential order.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing
- Appeals Council review
- Federal District Court
Submit a Request for Reconsideration
Many Social Security Disability applicants falsely think they should file a new application, when in fact, the SSA clearly defines the four-step appeals process. Reconsideration is simply filing an appeal of the same case. The SSA has stated on its website that appeals have a higher rate of approval than initial disability claims.
The key to filing the same claim the second time around is to bolster your case with more convincing documentation. If you do not provide Disability Determination Services (DDS) with sufficient medical evidence, the members of the DDS cannot evaluate the severity of your heart valve disorder symptoms. You must allow DDS full access to all your medical information.
Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge
If you fail to receive approval of your claim during reconsideration, take your claim to the next step of a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. An ALJ issues a decision that is independent of the decision made by the SSA and DDS.
Before the hearing, you and your lawyer should review the evidence to determine whether you need to present more persuasive evidence to convince the ALJ to approve your appeal. Submit additional evidence as soon as possible after the reconsideration stage to give the ALJ plenty of time to review your case.
Review Conducted by Appeals Council
As a branch of the SSA, the Appeals Council reviews the decisions handed down by the SSA, DDS, and ALJ. You have to make your request to have your claim heard in front of the Appeals Council in writing. Submit Form HA-520, which is the Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order. You can either mail the written request to the SSA or the Appeals Council address listed on the form.
When the Appeals Council receives your request for a review of your denied claim, the members of the council will decide whether to accept your request. If the members of the Appeals Council believe the ALJ issued a just decision, you can expect a denied appeal.
The Appeals Council can also send the claim back to a different ALJ if the members think the ruling issued by the original ALJ was not fair. You do not attend a formal hearing; all communication is conducted in written form.
File an Appeal in a Federal District Court
Filing an appeal in a federal district court gets the SSA back involved in the appeals process. The SSA has designated the Office of General Council (OCG) to receive the summons and complaint associated with your appeal.
An attorney for the OSG will respond to the summons by stating why the ALJ and Appeals Council made correct assessments of your claim. After the court receives a response from the OGC, you then have to submit an opening brief to initiate an appeal with the federal district court.
Get Legal Help with the Appeals Process
Working with a Social Security lawyer helps you collect the evidence required to convince the SSA, ALJ, Appeals Council, and/or a federal district court judge as to the validity of your disability claim. Increase your chance of winning an appeal by hiring a Social Security lawyer.