Experienced Disability Lawyers

Understanding the SSDI appeals process

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2023 | Social Security Disability

Waiting to learn if you are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits can be stressful, but finding out you have been denied the benefits can bring an entirely new set of problems.

Like most Indiana residents who apply, you are probably depending on the SSDI benefits for income while you are disabled and unable to work.

You can appeal most SSDI denials. The appeal process involves various stages and has many requirements. It is important to carefully follow all instructions when it comes to appealing, since a mistake or missed deadline could cause your appeal to be denied.

The initial determination

When you file for benefits, the first document you receive is called an initial determination. This is a written decision from the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). The document will state if you are eligible for benefits, and if so, the amount of your payments.

What if you are approved for benefits but disagree with the amount? You can still appeal the determination, but the SSA will review your entire determination during the appeal, which means there is a chance your entire claim could be denied.

If you do appeal, you must send your appeal notice in writing within 60 days of the date you received your initial determination. The determination should have detailed instructions on how to file your appeal.


The first appeal is called a reconsideration. A reconsideration means you are asking the SSA to reconsider your benefits application.

Your application will then be reviewed again, and you will receive a new determination. You might be asked to provide updated information or documentation as part of the reconsideration.

Provide any requested information promptly. The reconsideration process can take several weeks or sometimes months, so you should keep the SSA updated on your status.

ALJ hearing

If you do not agree with the results of the request for reconsideration, you can appeal again and request a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). This appeal must also be filed within 60 days and must be in writing.

You will receive a notice with the date and time of your hearing. Your hearing may be held in person, by telephone or online. You should arrive early at the hearing or make sure you are properly set up to attend. If you do not attend the hearing, you will likely lose your appeal.

What happens at the hearing

At the hearing, both you and an SSA representative provide testimony and evidence and argue why you should or should not receive benefits.

Examples of evidence include expert testimony from your doctors or providers or your medical documentation.

The ALJ does not decide your case at the hearing. You will receive a written decision at a later date.

Appeals council and federal court

If you do not agree with the ALJ’s decision, you can appeal to an appeals council and ultimately a federal court. However, the council and court may decline to review your case. They may decline to look at it, which means the previous decision is final.

Knowing how to properly present your case can make a huge difference to the outcome. A successful appeal can provide you with the benefits you need.