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The four stages of SSD appeals

Submitting a Social Security Disability application is not the end of the road for many California residents-less than half of all first time SSD applications are accepted in the first attempt. A denial of SSD claims may seem disheartening but it doesn't have to be, because the Social Security Administration has a comprehensive appeals process that can be utilized to ensure the decision reached is the correct one.

Once the SSA has made a decision on the application, a letter is sent to the applicant explaining the reasons. An appeal may be requested within 60 days of receiving this letter and it must be in writing. There are four levels of appeal.

The first level of the appeal is the reconsideration stage. Someone who did not take part in the decision is going to do a complete review of the claim. New evidence can also be submitted at this stage and it will be considered, in additional to all the previous ones. If the reconsideration decision is also disagreed with, the next step would be to ask for a hearing. An administrative judge who had no part in the original decision will be responsible for the hearing and may ask questions of both the applicant and any witnesses he or she brings along. Once again, new evidence can be submitted at this stage. After the hearing comes the Appeals Council, who look at all requests for review but can deny it if they believe the decision reached previously was correct. If the Council agrees to review the case, it could either do so itself or send it back to the administrative law judge. The last stage is to file a lawsuit in federal court for review of one's application.

The appeals process can be drawn out, but it does not have to be gone through alone. Since new evidence can be presented at every stage of the process, it can be highly beneficial to consult a legal professional on how to make one's claim legally sound.

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