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The Appeal Process

SSD/SSI Application and Appeal Process Overview

Initial application (2-6 months)The Appeal Process

35% allowed, 65% denied

Apply at your local SSA District Office OR online at www.ssa.gov

If denied at Initial, have only 60 days to file a Request for Reconsideration

Most people do not need a representative to help them file an Initial application. Click on “disability” from the benefits list at the bottom of the ssa.gov page. That takes you to a page that explains the program. Click on the blue “Apply for Disability” tag. Enter the information requested page by page. Make sure to record the “Re-entry number” in case of an interruption.

The Appeal Process Reconsideration (1-8 months)

13% allowed, 87% denied

Make sure all medical sources were contacted at the Initial level

60 days to file an appeal

If the claimant is unrepresented and denied at the Reconsideration level, it would be in his or her best interest to obtain a representative to help file the Request for Hearing.  It may be difficult to obtain representation after a hearing is scheduled. 

Hearing before an ALJ (6-24 months)

45% allowed, 20% dismissed, 35% denied  (the Maddox & Laffoon allowance rate is about 80%)

Since COVID, most hearings held by telephone

Administrative Law Judges (ALJs)

Medical Experts

Vocational Experts

Appeals Council (3-8 mos)

1% pay,10% remand, 4% dismiss, 85% deny

Can now file this appeal on-line – but be sure to print out the receipt

All on paper, legal arguments

Appeal Process: Federal Court (6-10 mos)

2% allow, 48% remand, 8% dismiss, 42% deny (we win remands in 85% of our cases)

All on paper, legal arguments

$402 filing fee or Apply to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

A successful outcome is generally a remand to the ALJ who issued the Unfavorable Decision

Most of our clients win their cases at the hearing level.

If your claim is denied by an ALJ after a hearing, there are other levels of appeal. The last level of administrative appeal is a Request for Review with the Appeals Council, which is located in Falls Church, Virginia. This does not involve a hearing but focuses on the ALJ’s application of the law to the facts of your case. It is highly recommended that you have a lawyer help you with this level of appeal, although unless the lawyer was involved at the hearing level his or her effectiveness at the Appeals Council level will be reduced. This is because the record will have already been developed, and the Appeals Council very rarely considers new evidence in its review.

If the Appeals Council declines review, you can file a Complaint in Federal District Court, and have the SSA’s decision reviewed by a District Court Judge. If the District Court upholds the SSA’s decision, you have the right to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We do appeal work at the Federal District Court level, both for our existing clients and for other claimants whose attorneys limit their practice to administrative work.