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What are my rights if I am denied Social Security Disability Benefits?

Reconsideration – First step to appeal a denial

If you have been denied either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) you have the right to appeal your claim within 60 days from the date of the denial letter.

The first step in the appeal’s process is called the reconsideration. The Social Security Administration generally reviews your SSI or SSDI claim and makes their disability determination within 30 to 90 days.

If you have been denied, your denial letter should have told you how to file your appeal which is called the reconsideration, why you were denied and your deadline for filing your appeal.

Disability lawyers can file your reconsideration for you or you can file it on your own. If you would like to file it on your own you can either call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and request a reconsideration form be mailed to you or you can visit the Social Security Administration office nearest you and have a claims representative help you complete the proper paperwork. Be sure to get a receipt showing the date you filed the appeal paperwork in case it gets lost.

Reconsideration forms can also be downloaded from (request form (SSA-561). Information provided on the reconsideration form includes your name, Social Security number, the type of claim that you are appealing (listed on the notice of decision), the claim number (listed on the notice of decision), the reason for the appeal, your address and the contact information for your disability lawyer, if you have one.

Administrative Hearing – Second step to appeal a disability denial

What if you are denied a second time? If you are denied a second time you have the right to request a disability hearing. If you request a hearing your SSDI or SSI claim is sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) for the region that services your area.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the country the Social Security Disability hearing case loads waiting to be heard by 5 to 10 Administrative Law Judges can easily number in the hundreds. The volume of Social Security Disability cases can be overwhelming for the number of judges available to hear the disability claims. It is not unusual for disability claimants to wait 12-14 months for a Social Security Disability hearing.

Appeals Council – Third Step to appeal a disability denial

What if you are denied at the hearing level? You have the right to request a review by the Appeals Council. Who is the Appeals Council? According to the SSA, “The Appeals Council is made up of approximately 53 Administrative Appeals Judges, 59 Appeals Officers, and several hundred support personnel.”

The Appeals Council may either choose to evaluate your claim, deny the request for evaluation or remand your case back to the Administrative Law Judge.

What if your request for review is denied? Your rights within the Social Security system end, and you have the legal right to file a court case in federal district court.