Many individuals living in Massachusetts have filed claims to obtain financial disability assistance from the Social Security Administration (SSA), only to have those claims rejected. While the rejection of an initial claim may seem like a significant setback, the regulations established by the SSA under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) offer an extensive appellate process that gives most claims several chances to reverse the initial decision.
The first step: reconsideration
Most SSDI claims are handled by the SSA without a hearing or any formal submission of evidence or testimony. Instead, the SSA staff will review the application, including any medical or employment information submitted with the application.
If the initial application is denied (the SSA admits that most initial applications are denied), the applicant can file a request for reconsideration. The request must be submitted in writing or online within 60 days after receiving notice of the original decision.
Request a hearing before an administrative law judge
If the request for reconsideration results in another denial of the application, the applicant can request a hearing that will be conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ). The hearing may be held in person or via teleconferencing, depending on the applicant’s preference.
The applicant will be permitted to submit additional evidence concerning any medical or disability issue. All ALJs employed by the SSA have extensive training in disability law and medical issues, and most are attorneys.
Review by the Appeals Council
If the ALJ affirms the initial decision and the denial of reconsideration, the claimant can submit an appeal to the SSA’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council has several options: affirm the ALJ’s decision, send the case back to the ALJ for further consideration, or issue a new decision in the claimant’s favor.
Commence a federal lawsuit
The final step, if all previous appeals have been rejected, is commencing a lawsuit in the federal district challenging the evidentiary. This step requires the assistance of an attorney who is admitted to practice before the federal courts.
Even though representation by an attorney is not mandatory in any of the preceding appellate procedures, the assistance of a lawyer knowledgeable about SSDI cases can help at any stage of the process.