San Diego: 619-280-6565

Murrieta: 951-677-2616

Imperial County: 760-768-1234

Yuma: 928-373-0200

Understanding the Stages of a Social Security Disability Application

Understanding the Stages of a Social Security Disability Application


Most people are aware that if or when the need arises, Social Security Disability benefits might be available to them. Beyond that, however, most aren’t aware of how the system actually works, or the various stages of filing and sometimes appealing a Social Security Disability application. For that reason, applicants who are denied are often surprised or even shocked, followed by feelings of being overwhelmed by the appeals process.

Guiding clients through the appeals process is our specialty, but before we get started with your appeal, you might be curious of what you can expect. Here is a basic rundown of the general procedure for filing and (possibly) appealing an application for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Initial Application. First, you will file your initial application, for either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income (depending upon your qualifications for either program). While a minor number of applications are approved quickly (usually because a case meets the clear definitions of certain qualifying conditions listed under the Compassionate Allowances program), two-thirds (2/3) of applicants receive a denial at this stage.

Request for Reconsideration. If you do receive a denial, the next step is to file a Request for Reconsideration. You must do this within 60 days of the date of your initial denial. Approximately 12% of these appeals are approved upon Reconsideration. If you receive another denial, you can either file a new Initial Claim, or a Request for Hearing. Of course, you could also do nothing, and simply accept the decision (but obviously we don’t recommend this in most cases).

Request for Hearing. If you receive a second denial after Reconsideration, you have another 60 days to file a Request for Hearing. This hearing takes place before an Administrative Law Judge, and is usually your best chance of receiving an approval. It is advised that you prepare for this hearing adequately, and gather as much evidence as possible, in order to improve your chances of an approval. You will usually receive a decision by mail within a few months.

Appeals Council. If your case is not approved by the Administrative Law Judge, the final administrative step is to file an appeal with the Appeals Council. It is worth noting that the Appeals Council often upholds the decision of the Administrative Law Judge.

Rather than appealing at the final stage, you could also file a new Initial Claim and start over. If you’re trying to decide how to proceed with your Social Security Disability case, give us a call and we can help you decide.