SSA denies many new applications. If your application is denied or SSA says you are not disabled, you should appeal right away. Many people who appeal get approved for SSI or Social Security disability.
You have 65 days from the date on the denial letter to appeal. If you have a good reason for missing the deadline, Social Security may let you appeal late.
How do I appeal?
If you file a Request for Reconsideration, SSA will look at your claim again, along with any new evidence. To appeal you can
- get the Request for Reconsideration form from Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778);
- file your request online at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.htm; or
- write a letter to your local SSA office that says you still cannot work and you want to appeal the denial.
If SSA denies your Request for Reconsideration, ask for an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. To request an ALJ hearing you can
- get the ALJ hearing appeal form from Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778);
- file your request online at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html; or
- write a letter to your local SSA office that says you still cannot work and you want to appeal for an ALJ hearing.
You have 65 days from the date on the denial letter to appeal. If you have a good reason for missing the deadline, you can ask Social Security to let you appeal late.
Should I get a lawyer to help me with my appeals?
You don't need a lawyer to file the appeal paperwork, but your chances of winning an appeal are much better if you have one, especially if you are appealing for an ALJ hearing.
Try to talk to a lawyer as soon as you file your appeal. You can hire a private lawyer or call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 for help.
But be sure to file your appeal on time.
NOTE: If you get a lawyer to represent you, it is always best to get a lawyer who handles all levels of appeals. Many cases are denied after an ALJ hearing, and it helps to have a lawyer who will appeal further. When you talk to lawyers, you can ask
- what appeal levels they handle, and
- if they have taken appeals to the Appeals Council and Federal District Court.
How long do I have to wait for a hearing?
It takes about one year to get a hearing. SSA will mail you a notice with the date and time of the hearing at least 75 days before the hearing. If you miss your hearing, you may have to wait four months or longer for a new one.
How can I get ready for the hearing?
Make sure your medical and mental health professionals have given SSA all of your records about your disability. If you aren't sure which of your records SSA has, ask them to send you a list of all the records they have. If there is any new information or medical records about why you cannot work, send SSA copies of that information right away.
What will happen at the ALJ appeal hearing?
At your hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will look at the evidence SSA has about why you cannot work. If a medical provider's records are not in the SSA file, tell the ALJ that they are missing and ask SSA to request those records and add them to your case.
The ALJ may ask an employment and/or medical expert to testify about your condition and your ability to work. You can also give the ALJ other information about your disability by
- bringing witnesses who can testify about your disability; and
- showing letters from doctors, co-workers, and family about your disability.
If the ALJ denies your application, you can
- file a new application; or
- appeal to the Appeals Council within 65 days of the date on the denial letter. It usually takes at least a year to get a decision from the Appeals Council.
NOTE: If you do not appeal your ALJ decision, it becomes final. Depending on the timing of when you last worked and the ALJ decision, a final ALJ decision could cut off your ability to get SSDI benefits based on your work record. It could also affect the amount you get in retirement benefits if you earned enough to be eligible later in life. This is another reason to have a lawyer represent you at the ALJ hearing if possible.
How to appeal to the Appeals Council
Fill out a Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order (HA-520-U5, https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ha-520.html) and mail it to:
Appeals Council, SSA/OHO
5107 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3255
You can also get the form at
- your local Social Security Administration office;
- an Office of Hearings Operations in New Haven or Hartford; or
- by calling SSA toll-free at: 1-800-772-1213 (it is not easy to get through by phone).
Keep a copy for your records.