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The first appeal level is known as the Request for Reconsideration. This step comes after a denial of an initial application. You have 60 days after getting your denial notice to file for a reconsideration appeal. Ten states do not have this appeal, but the rest do. At this stage, the Disability Determination Section (the State Agency responsible for making the initial and reconsideration decision) will review the current evidence on file leading to the initial denial and any additional evidence acquired.
If your claim is denied at the reconsideration level you can take your claim to the next appeal level, the Request of Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. There is also a 60 day limitation to file for this appeal. At this level, you are given the opportunity to argue your claim in the presence of an Administrative Law Judge. Typically, you will also have a Vocational Expert present at the hearing and maybe a Medical Expert to give testimony.
Applicants who are denied by the ALJ have the option to appeal again by taking their case to the Appeals Council (AC). The purpose of the AC is to review the judge’s decision to see if the judge made any errors in their judgement and to make certain that the law has was applied appropriately.
In most claims, the last resort for applicants is taking their case to Federal District Court (FDC). The FDC, much like the AC, will also review the judge’s decision for errors that could change the outcome of the decision.
If you are denied at FDC, you can reapply if you still meet SSA’s eligibility guidelines.
Going through the appeals process isn’t easy, especially if you’re by yourself. Having a disability attorney who knows about appeals will do wonders for your claim.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law