How to Appeal After Your Disability Claim's Denial
If your first application for Social Security disability benefits gets denied, don't give up! You have 60 days to appeal that decision in writing. In addition, there are four different appeal steps you can try before starting over with a brand-new benefits application. We'll explain what to expect and how many people get approved at each stage in our step-by-step guide below.More Guides
File Your First Appeal, Called Reconsideration, Within 60 Days of Your Denial
When your claim's denied, you should get a letter in the mail explaining why. In addition, that letter should list instructions explaining where to submit your appeal request in writing. We strongly recommend talking to an attorney at this stage (if you haven't already done so). A lawyer can review your paperwork for free and help you correct any basic mistakes on your claim forms. It takes your state's Disability Determination Services (DDS) office about 111.5 days to process your reconsideration request, on average.
If Your First Appeal's Denied, Request an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing Next
Just like step 1 above, you have 60 days to submit your second appeal request in writing. The bad news is, you might have a pretty long wait before your court date arrives. In 2022, the average wait time for ALJ hearings is 337 days. About 4 in every 5 claimants have legal representation at this appeals stage. And it's easy to see why: In 2022, the case-win rate for ALJ hearings was 44%, on average.
Hearing Didn't Go Well? Request an Appeals Council Review of Your Judge's Decision
Just like the previous steps, you have 60 days to request this review with the Appeals Council. Keep your expectations low if you do this, though. The Appeals Council looks for flawed rulings before agreeing to review your case. In other words, requesting an Appeals Council review doesn't guarantee you'll get one. In 2019, the Appeals Council agreed to review less than 1 in 10 disputed ALJ rulings (about 9.3%). If the Council agrees to review your case, you'll wait 254 days, on average, for their decision.
Appeals Council Review Didn't Award You Benefits? A Federal Lawsuit's Your Last Chance
Your final appeals stage involves filing a civil claim against the SSA in a Federal district court. You must do this within 60 days after the Appeals Council refuses to review your hearing or denies your claim. Once you get to this final disability appeals stage, you have a very low chance of winning benefits. About 1,359 disability appeals cases filed more than 6 months earlier waited for a Federal court review in March 2022. It costs money to file your case in Federal court, and just 3% of claimants win appeals at this stage.