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How do I file an appeal from a denial of SSD benefits?

As many people in Southern California have learned, many applications for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits are initially denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA.) In this post, we will summarize the various kinds of appeals that can be made from a decision denying SSD benefits.

Federal regulations specify four kinds of appeals, and each must be taken in the prescribed order. Also, a lower level appeal must be completed before seeking a change in the benefits decision at a higher level. The first level of appeal is called a request for reconsideration. Reconsideration can be initiated by filing a form with the SSA. The applicant's file will be reviewed by someone who played no part in the initial decision. If reconsideration yields a negative outcome, the next step is to request a hearing by an administrative law judge.

At this hearing, the applicant may call witnesses in favor of his or her claim. Additional evidence, such as medical and records, can also be presented to the administrative law judge to prove the extent of disability and inability to work. The applicant is not required to attend, but attendance at the hearing is usually advantageous. If the administrative law judge denies the claim, the case can be sent to the Appeals Council, an agency within the Social Security Administration that reviews disputed cases. The Appeals Council can affirm the denial or send the case back to an administrative law judge for further review. The last type of review is the filing of a lawsuit in Federal Court. Such a suit asks the court to review the file and reverse the decision denying benefits.

Some people choose to handle their appeals without an attorney, but in most cases, the services of a Social Security disability lawyer is very helpful. A knowledgeable attorney may be able to present the evidence supporting the claim in an effective manner. If the SSA should call opposing witnesses, the claimant's lawyer will be able to cross-examine them. Finally, if the case is appealed to a Federal Court, a lawyer knows how to represent his or her client in the case.

Source: Social Security Administration, "The Appeals Process," accessed on Oct. 24, 2016

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