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What are the phases of a Social Security disability appeal?

Individuals in Iowa and nationwide who have been rendered unable to work on account of a medical condition may be able to pursue financial benefits through the Social Security disability system. If successful on their claim, an individual can ensure their financial stability while focusing on adequately treating their medical condition.

Yet, for a variety of reasons, many initial SSD claims are denied by the Social Security Administration. Although receiving one of these denials can be disheartening, it is not the end of the road for those who want to continue to fight for benefits. This is because there are several appellate options available to those whose initial SSD claims have been denied.

The first appellate step is reconsideration. Here, the SAA essentially reevaluates an individual’s claim to determine whether he or she meets the federal requirements to be deemed “disabled,” and if he or she possesses the requisite work history to obtain benefits. All evidence that was previously submitted, as well as new evidence, will be considered by another individual within the SSA who did not make the initial determination.

The second appellate step is to obtain a hearing before an administrative law judge. During this stage, a claimant is allowed to submit evidence and call witnesses to testify on his or her behalf. Once this evidence is heard, the administrative law judge will issue a ruling.

If unsuccessful at the hearing phase, then a claimant can move up the appellate ladder to the Appeals Council. Although the Appeals Council may reconsider a case, it will likely not do so if it believes that the outcome of the hearing before an administrative law judge was correct. If it does choose to reassess a case, it will either issue a final determination or send it back to an administrative law judge for another hearing. Lastly, when all else fails, a denied claim can be appealed to the federal courts.

Going in, individuals should be prepared to present the best case possible at the initial determination stage. However, individuals may have more than one chance to recover the benefits they need and deserve. Therefore, Iowans who have been initially denied SSD benefits should not lose hope. Through the appeals process a person may eventually have their claim for SSD benefits approved.