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An overview of the disability appeals process

Millions of Americans are denied Social Security Disability benefits each year. In fact, only an estimated 40 percent of applicants for Social Security Disability are approved. However, for those who aren't successful in getting approved for SSD benefits on their initial applications, fear not - there is an appeals process. But, when a Los Angeles resident receives notice that they were not approved for SSD benefits, a clock starts ticking. That person has only 60 days to notify the Social Security Administration that they would like to appeal the initial decision.

The first step that the Social Security Administration will take is to have your application and file reviewed by another person for a second look. This is known as a "reconsideration" review, and there may be a chance that the second person disagrees with the initial determination of ineligibility. However, if the second person agrees with the initial decision, it is time to move to the second step, which is to ask for a hearing.

The hearing will be held in front of a judicial officer known as an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. This person is an employee of the Social Security Administration as well, but don't be daunted by that fact. At the hearing an applicant is allowed to present the evidence they believe shows that they are entitled to receive SSD benefits. The ALJ will take the evidence under consideration and ultimately make a final decision. This is where most people stop the appeals process, accepting the determination of the ALJ as final, whatever that may be.

But, there are two more level of the appeals process if an applicant truly believes there have been a number of incorrect decisions. However, in reality, the chances of getting a reversal at the next two stages, the Appeals Council and, ultimately, a federal court lawsuit, are incredibly bleak. Anyone who gets that far into the appeals process will probably want to get more information about their options at that point.

Source: ssa.gov, "The Appeals Process," accessed on Sept. 19, 2014

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