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For Pennsylvanians who apply for Social Security disability benefits, having their claim denied can be difficult. The idea behind SSD benefits is for the person to receive assistance to make ends meet so they can be treated for their medical issues without concern for their living arrangements, purchasing necessities and more. A denial can add more worries on top of what the person and his or her family is already dealing with. Fortunately, it is possible to appeal a denied claim. Understanding the appeals process can be key.

When a person requests an appeal, the Social Security Administration will examine the entire decision. The appeal must be made in writing and the SSA must get it within 60 days of the date on the letter informing the claimant of the denial. There are four levels of appeal: reconsideration; a hearing before an administrative law judge; a review by the Appeals Council; and a review in Federal Court.

With reconsideration, the entire case will be reviewed by someone who did not have any role in the previous decision. All the evidence that was provided will be assessed and new evidence can be presented. If the reconsideration is denied, there can be a hearing. An administrative law judge who did not take part in the original case or the reconsideration will oversee the hearing. The applicant will be asked to give more evidence and clear up information. The person will be questioned by the ALJ and witnesses can testify.

If the ALJ denies the appeal, it can go to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is not obligated to give a review. If it refuses to hear it, there will be a letter to the applicant explaining why. Should the Appeals Council review the case, it can decide whether to approve or deny the claim on its own or it can send the claim back to an ALJ. Finally, there is Federal Court. The applicant can file a federal lawsuit if the Appeals Council denies the claim or refuses to hear it.

When a person seeks Social Security disability benefits and is denied, it can make a bad situation worse. Often, they will not know where to turn. However, there are alternatives to appeal the decision and many people who have had their cases denied are able to receive an approval at one of the four levels of appeal. From the start of a Social Security disability case, it is wise to have professional guidance to organize, apply and, if necessary, appeal.