Social Security Disability Appeal Process

SSDI Application and Appeals Process

How is a Social Security Disability claim processed and were does your file go when you appeal a denial? These pages are about how your claim is handled by Social Security from the time you apply until you get a decision which includes all the appeals in between. In other words, you will learn what happens to your case when you apply until you get a decision and how to appeal decisions that are unfavorable.  This section of the website shortly describes how to apply for Social Security Disability or SSI but there is a more detailed explaination on the linked page. You also learn where your case goes when you appeal at the different levels of the process and who makes a decision as to whether you are disabled or not after each appeal.  Claims for SSDI or SSI are processed the same way.  You first fill out a Social Security Disability application and apply.  If you are denied at application you can then request reconsideration if you are in a state that has the reconsideration stage.  If you are denied at reconsideration, or you are in a state that does not have reconsideration and you were denied at application, then you request a hearing.  If you are denied at hearing you can request a review of the hearing decision from the Appeals Council.  Lastly, if you lose at the Appeals Council you can file a claim in U.S. District Court.  This is a quick summary of the Social Security Disability Process and the following pages will explain in detail each step in the SSDI appeals process. After reading these pages you should have a good understanding of how to appeal a social security disability denial at each step.  You should also have an understanding of how your file travels from one office to the next when you make your appeals, why it moves and what is being done at each Social Security office.  For more information from the SSA website on the Social Security appeals process visit the link. Below you will find a quick movie which takes you through the Social Security disability process from application to US District Court. 

How Long Does it Take at Application and Appeal?

Now that you know how your Social Security Disability or SSI claim moves through the Social Security disability process your next question may be:  How long will each of these stages take? This is a difficult question to answer because how long it takes at each stage depends a great deal on the caseload and people that are handling your case at Social Security. I will give you some general time frames as to how long each stage takes but your claim may take significantly longer or shorter than the time frames I give you. At application it normally takes between 3 to 6 months to get a decision. At reconsideration it usually takes about the same 3 to 6 months. At hearing from the time you request a hearing until you get your decision it can take anywhere from one to three years. The Appeals Council can issue a decision anywhere from a few months to a year or more. The hardest time frame to give you is if your case is at US District Court. At this level, it will probably take a year or longer, sometimes much longer. As you can see, the earlier you win the better off you are because when you start to add up the time it takes at these different stages you can see it may be a very long time before you are able to win your case if at all. You must also consider the fact that if your case is remanded at the Appeals Council or US District Court it can take much longer.  After you read the rest of the pages in this section you should have a good understanding of the Social Security disability appeal process and how a SSD or SSI disability claim is handled.  Make sure to not stop here and learn the Social Security Disability test used to determine if you are disabled as well which you will also find on this website.