Sustaining a serious injury or developing a life-altering illness may make it impossible for you to work and support your family. Fortunately, if you have accumulated enough work credits, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
Even if you legally qualify for SSDI benefits, you should prepare yourself for an initial denial. After all, the Social Security Administration rejects benefits requests from most first-time applicants. You probably do not have to accept the denial, however. Here are four possible levels you may use to appeal the decision.
The easiest and most common way to reverse an SSDI benefits denial is to ask for reconsideration. With this process, a different adjudicator reviews your application. You may also typically submit new evidence to support your claim.
2. An administrative law judge
If your request for reconsideration does not end favorably, you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge. At this hearing, you may need to testify about your injury or illness and your inability to work.
3. The SSA Appeals Council
The Appeals Council within the SSA hears appeals from individuals who believe an administrative law judge made some factual or legal error. If the Appeals Council agrees, its judges may approve benefits outright or send the case back to the administrative law judge for additional processing.
4. Federal court
If you exhaust all your reconsideration and appellate options within the SSA, you may file suit in federal district court to seek approval of your SSDI benefits. You may not have to go that far, however.
Ultimately, whether you receive SSDI benefits on appeal may depend on your ability to document your injury or illness correctly. Therefore, throughout the appellate process, you should continue to retain relevant records.