The Social Security Disability Appeals Process
The Decision and Appeal
The Social Security Disability benefits application and appeals process can seem daunting. The more you know, however, the better your chance of presenting your application in the best light possible. If you receive a negative decision, you have the opportunity to appeal it.
The Initial Application
The Social Security Administration’s process for the initial determination of disability may take three to six months and occasionally longer. You can file a claim for social security disability online or by calling the social security toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 or by appointment with you local social security office. Application processes are slightly modified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the receipt of your application for disability benefits, a Social Security representative will review the information you have provided. In Texas if the representative is satisfied that the application meets certain basic criteria (like a long enough work history), the representative will forward the application and supporting materials to the Texas state Disability Determination Services (DDS) in Austin which is charged with deciding whether you have a disability that qualifies under Social Security Administration standards.
The Texas DDS may seek more evidence to further develop your file. The Texas DDS employs doctors and disability specialists to review medical records and collect additional information from treating doctors, clinics and hospitals. The agency may also send you to your doctor or a new doctor for an examination.
Administrative Law Judge Hearing
A hearing before an administrative law judge is the most important event in the social security disability appeal process. This is the step in the appeal process where you have the best chance of claim approval. Unfortunately, disability claimants cannot just go “right to the judge”: you must have received an initial and then a reconsideration denial.
If the Appeals Council has declined to review your case, your last stop in the appeals process is the US District Court. Like the Appeal Council, Federal Courts are only interested in whether the SSA made a legal error in how your case was analyzed – not whether you are in fact “disabled”. Consequently, like the Appeals Council, Federal Courts approve very few disability cases.
Disability applicants with an Appeals Council denial should carefully consider whether starting over with their disability claim – rather than going to Federal Court – is the best option.