Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. However, applying for SSDI benefits can be a complex and lengthy process, and many applicants find their initial claims denied.
If your initial SSDI application is denied, you have the right to appeal. Understanding the appeals process can increase your chances of a successful outcome. It works like this:
The first step in the SSDI appeals process is called a reconsideration, and you have 60 days to request one after your initial claim is denied. A reconsideration involves returning your case to the state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS), where it will be reviewed by a different claims examiner than the one who originally denied it.
If your claim is denied again at the reconsideration stage, you have 60 days to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will review the evidence in your file, question you about your condition and listen to any expert witnesses involved about your capacity to work. Many claims that were initially denied and denied upon reconsideration are eventually approved at this level.
If your claim is denied at the ALJ hearing, you once again have 60 days to ask for a review by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council may make a decision on your case or send it back to the ALJ for further review. If your claim is ultimately unsuccessful, you then have the option to file a lawsuit in federal court. All of these steps have one major thing in common: They’re very slow. Average wait times even for initial decisions have ballooned to more than seven months, while the average reconsideration is taking more than a year – and it can take more than two years to get before an ALJ.
That means it’s more important than ever to make sure that your SSDI claim, at any level, is complete and clearly depicts your situation. If you’re having trouble getting your Social Security Disability benefits, there is assistance available.