If your social security disability claim has been denied, you’re not alone. According to the Annual Statistical Report of the Social Security Program, around 54 percent of social security claims are denied each year. There are many different reasons an application for social security disability benefits may be denied, including:

man reading in wheelchair

  • The impairment is not expected to last for 12 months
  • The impairment is not regarded as severe
  • The applicant is able to perform their usual type of work or another type of work
  • Insufficient medical evidence
  • An impairment resulting from alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Failure to follow prescribed treatment

The Appeals Process

Just because you’ve been denied social security disability benefits doesn’t mean the decision is final. You have the right to appeal the decision. There are four levels of appeal: reconsideration, administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing, appeals council and federal court review.

Reconsideration Appeal

At the first level of appeal, you can request that either the initial denial of benefits or the termination of current benefits be reviewed again. A reconsideration appeal is a complete review of the claim by a social security examiner and medical consultant who did not participate in the initial denial. You can begin the appeal by contacting your local social security office. The Disability Determination Services approves around 5 to 10 percent of all reconsideration claims.

Administrative Law Judge Hearing

If your reconsideration appeal is denied, the next level of appeal is an ALJ hearing. You need to request a hearing before an ALJ within 60 days of receipt of your denial notice. ALJs wor
k for the social security office, and their work entails upholding or overturning former decisions to terminate or deny benefits. While the decision may depend on the judge, up to 67 percent of disability applicants win their appeal at this level.

Appeals Council

If you lose at the ALJ hearing, you can request that the appeals council reevaluate your case. Keep in mind that at this level, only 2 to 3 percent of applicants win their case. Your appeal may be denied for a variety of reasons, such as filing late or requesting a dismissal. The appeals council will only review your case if there was an abuse of discretion, unsupported evidence affecting the ALJ decision or there was a procedural issue with the case like non-notification of an expert witness at the hearing.

Federal Court Review

The federal court review is when you actually sue the social security administration in federal court. It can be a long and expensive process. And if you haven’t yet hired a disability attorney, you’ll certainly need an experienced one at this level. At this level of appeal, federal judges rule on factual questions and check the case for legal errors.

At every level of appeal, a social security disability lawyer can increase your chances of success. Experienced social security lawyers know the required criteria that must be met for a reversal of a denial of benefits. Contact our disability lawyers here at Campbell & Associates for the best outcome.