The 4 levels of the SSDI appeals process

The application process for Social Security Disability Insurance is often complex, so you may feel understandable irritation if you submit your application and receive a denial in response. Try not to panic in this situation, though. Many applicants receive denials in response to their initial SSDI claims. Some of them are able to secure benefits after all after navigating the appeals process.

Per the U.S. Social Security Administration, there are four levels of the SSDI appeals process. These levels are as follows.

Reconsideration

The first step you may want to take after a denied SSDI claim is to ask for a reconsideration. After you request a reconsideration, someone who had nothing to do with processing your first claim takes another look at your application to see if he or she arrives at the same conclusion.

Hearing by an administrative law judge

If your reconsideration request fails to produce the results you desire, the next level of the appeals process involves requesting and attending a hearing with an administrative law judge. This often requires you to attend an in-person hearing within 75 miles of your home address.

Review by the appeals council

If the hearing with an administrative law judge fails to lead to SSDI approval, you may ask for a review by the appeals council. It is at the discretion of the council whether to review your claim again.

Federal court review

If all else fails and you are unable to receive approval for your SSDI claim, your last option involves requesting a review of your application in federal court.

Whether you pursue your SSDI claim on your own or with legal representation is up to you. However, appointing a representative may help you track important dates and otherwise stay on top of the application and appeals processes.