What are the Levels of Social Security Appeals?

For most Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants, at least one appeal is typically necessary. In fact, approximately 70 percent of all applicants will have to file an appeal or forego benefits because only about 30 percent of applicants are approved for benefits at the initial levels. Of those approved for benefits at the initial application stages, most of these individuals will have particularly serious impairments that may qualify as a Listed condition or for a compassionate allowance.

If filing an SSDI or SSI application followed by filing multiple appeals seems particularly burdensome or difficult to manage while coping with the effects of your severe impairment or impairments, you are not alone. Many hardworking Arkansans who can no longer work due to illness, injury or other disability have relied on Fayetteville AR disability lawyer Ken Kieklak of the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak to handle their claims.

What Are the First Levels of Appeal?

While many would say that your appeal being once you file, preparation for your appeal beings the moment you receive your letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) denying benefits. After you receive the letter, you should review it carefully because it will describe the reasoning and basis used to reject your benefits claim. This letter should inform you not only of your right to an appeal, but also the time you have to file the appeal. Since the consequences of failing to file a timely appeal without a valid justification are that you will have to begin the process again, it is typically in your best interest to file your appeal without delay.

The first level of appeal is known as reconsideration. An appeal at the reconsideration level is statistically unlikely to bring a different result, but you must go through this level to reach higher levels of appeals.

At the second level of appeals, an applicant has the first real opportunity for his or her claim to be approved after a denial. At this stage, the SSDI or SSI applicant is entitled to an in-person hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). While the applicant has the option of appearing in-person before the ALJ, that option should almost always be exercised. By appearing before an ALJ, you can enhance your credibility and show first-hand how your impairment or impairments limits the things you are able to do.

What Appeal is Available After the Hearing with an ALJ?

If your applications for benefits is not approved after the in-person hearing, you can appeal the matter further to an Appeals Council. The Appeals Council differs from the lower levels of review because the Council is concerned with not only factual errors, but also mistakes of law. Mistakes of law can include misapplication of SSA rules or regulations, application of childhood listed conditions for an adult, or the misapplication of limitations on substantial gainful income (SGA).  The Appeals Council has several options in handling your claim. It may elect to award benefits, deny benefits or remand your matter back to an ALJ due to decisional errors.

If your application for disability benefits was denied by the Appeals Council, one level of appeal remains. However, applicants who have received denials up to this point are generally unlikely to be successful at this level unless there is a novel issue or if new medical, vocational, or educational evidence emerges extremely late in the process. However, applicants that were denied at the lower levels may file a final appeal in federal district court.

Rely on our SSD Experience

For more than 20 years, Ken Kieklak has fought for people living in north Arkansas who have suffered injuries or developed disabilities that have made it impossible to continue work. While filing one or more appeals is often necessary to secure a benefits award, Ken will handle the entire process for you. He can work to gather relevant evidence that supports your allegations and present it in a way that is responsive to the SSA’s decisional framework.

To schedule a free and private SSDI or SSI consultation, contact the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak today by calling (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.