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Steps to Getting Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income Benefits

I. Initial Application

Applicants file initial application and supporting documents with the Social Security Administration. (If you have not yet completed an application for benefits, click here to request a New Application Workbook)

II. Reconsideration Level

If you are denied benefits on your initial application, you must request a reconsideration of your case within 60 days of the date on your denial letter. Failing to timely appeal is the most common mistake made by applicants.

III. Hearing Level

If your claim is denied after requesting a request for reconsideration, you have 60 days from the date of your reconsideration denial letter to request a Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge.

IV. Appeal Council

This step consists of filing a written appeal which will be considered by a special department of the Social Security Administration. The Appeals Council reviews their case to determine whether you were given a fair hearing. If you succeed, your case could be remanded back to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review for a new hearing to be set. The appeals council also has the power to reverse the Administrative Law Judge decision and award benefits without an additional hearing.

V. Federal Court

If the Appeals Council denied your appeal and/or refused to review your case, you have 60 days to file for review of your case in the Federal District Court. After reviewing the record from your hearing, the Federal judge can (1) award disability benefits, (2) deny benefits, or (3) send your case back to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review for an additional hearing.

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