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Understanding the SSDI appeals process

You may feel understandable frustration if you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance and the U.S. Social Security Administration denies your claim. However, this happens to many applicants, and some of those denied applicants receive approval for benefits after filing appeals.

Per the U.S. Social Security Administration, there is a specific appeals process you must follow if you wish to dispute a denied SSDI claim. There are rules and deadlines associated with filing an appeal, and failing to follow or meet them may result in another denied claim. There are four levels involved in the SSDI appeals process.


The first step in appealing a denied SSDI claim involves asking someone who had no part in denying your first claim to review your application. If you have evidence that backs up your claim that you did not submit before, make sure you do it during the reconsideration stage.

Administrative law judge hearing

If your reconsideration request gets you nowhere, you may need to request a hearing with an administrative law judge. This typically occurs at a location that is within about 75 miles of your home.

Appeals Council hearing

If the SSA still fails to approve you for benefits after an administrative hearing, you may need to attend another hearing before the SSA’s Appeals Council. It is at the discretion of the council as to whether your case should warrant another look.

Federal court review

If all else fails, you may need to have your case undergo review by a federal court.

Hiring an attorney is not a requirement for mounting an SSDI appeal. However, you may find that doing so helps you keep track of important deadlines and documents and otherwise prepare for the various steps in the appeals process.