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What do I do when my claim for SSD benefits is denied?

When people apply for Social Security disability, the need for financial assistance is often critical. The majority of people do not have substantial savings or other financial resources that can cover the day-to-day costs of living without earning an income. SSD benefits are intended to assist people in this situation, but it is a difficult process and many people's claims for benefits are initially denied. Fortunately, Social Security Disability appeals are possible.

After an initial claim for benefits has been denied, there is an appeals process that applicants can begin. In order to initiate the appeals process, an applicant must first send a signed request for reconsideration to the Social Security Administration. It is very important that the request is complete and correctly filled out because it will be returned to the applicant for revisions if required information is missing or incomplete. An applicant who is appealing a denial can either submit a disability report with the request for reconsideration or wait until the SSA requests that the applicant complete a disability report. The SSA will review the information, along with any other new medical records, to determine whether the definition of disability is met. In this step of the appeals process, a face-to-face review can be requested by the applicant.

If the claim is denied again during the reconsideration process, the applicant for SSD benefits can request a hearing in front of a Social Security judge. Again, this step requires a formal Request for Hearing and an Appeal Disability Report. An appellant should complete these required forms online and submit them electronically. Upon request, a judge will meet with the applicant and any representative of the applicant and will then make a decision on the case.

The final two possible steps of the appeals process are an Appeals Council Review and a District Court Case. The Request for Review of Decision of Administrative Law Judge is a paper-based form that must be completed and sent to the local Social Security office. There is no option for a face-to-face meeting or hearing at this stage. If an appellant wishes to proceed until the final stage, a District Court Case, he or she will be required to have an attorney. This step involves filing a case in District Court against Social Security. At this stage, the case is reviewed not by Social Security but by a district court judge.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Disability Appeal: How the disability Appeals Process works," last accessed Jan. 6, 2015

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