If Your Initial Application is Denied
Upon receiving a denial of their initial application, many applicants give up. That’s not surprising, given that has provided a lot of information to Social Security and after waiting five months or longer, receives the denial letter. As disappointing and frustrating as that is, it is extremely important not to become discouraged, because many or most successful applicants will win at one of the following stages.
Many other applicants, after receiving their denial notice, will simply file a new initial application. While that may make sense under a few circumstances, most applicants will be better off to proceed through the process rather than start over.
Request for Reconsideration
If your initial application is denied, the next step is to submit a Request for Reconsideration. Your file will be returned to the same Disability Determination Services office that reviewed your initial application. DDS will review its original decision using the same rules it used previously, but the review will be conducted by a different claims consultant, doctor, and vocational expert. DDS may take into account changes to your medical condition since your initial application. Around 5% to 15% of reconsiderations are granted.
Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge
If your Request for Rehearing has been denied, the next step of the appeal process is the one that holds your highest likelihood of success: the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing. At this stage, you case is transferred to the SSA’s Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) where it will be heard by an ALJ. The ALJ will make a new decision on your claim, giving little consideration to the DDS determination. The ALJ will consider the record that was before DDS, as well as any new medical evidence you’ve submitted. At the hearing, the judge will typically take your testimony as well as the testimony of vocational or medical experts. If you win at this level, and your case is not reviewed by the Appeals Council, it will be sent to local field office for payment.
If you lose at the ALJ Hearing stage, you can appeal the decision to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can deny your appeal, send your case back to the hearing office for another hearing (usually before the same ALJ) or enter a finding that you are disabled.
If you lose at the Appeals Council level, your remaining option is to file a civil action in a United States District Court. Appeals from decisions of US District Court s are to Federal Courts of Appeal and finally, you guessed it, to the US Supreme Court.