New York residents who are unable to work because of an illness or disability can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but their claims are unlikely to be approved during the initial review process. Only 35% of disability claims were approved by the Social Security Administration in 2022, but there are steps that applicants can take when they believe denials are unfair. They can ask for their applications to be reconsidered, and they can request hearings when their claims are denied for a second time. If applicants are still unhappy after exhausting these options, they can take their cases to federal court.
Reconsideration and appeals
The first step in the Social Security Disability appeals process is asking for reconsideration. This can be done online or by completing and submitting forms that can be downloaded from the Social Security Administration website. Once this is done, a medical team will reexamine the claim and the evidence supporting it to determine whether or not the claim was rejected in error. Only about one in nine of these requests leads to a reversal. When a denial is not reversed, the applicant can ask for their case to be referred to an administrative law judge. If they do, a hearing will be scheduled where they can present evidence and call witnesses. About half of the disability claims that reach the hearing stage are approved.
The SSA Appeals Council and federal courts
When an administrative law judge determines that a claim was rejected for good reasons, the next step in the appeals process is asking the Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council to review the case. If this request is made, a panel of two or three members will review the case. The panel could choose to reverse, modify or uphold the administrative law judge’s decision, or it may order the judge to hold a second hearing. If the Appeals Council upholds the administrative law judge’s decision, the applicant can file suit in federal court.
A long and frustrating process
The Social Security Disability appeals process can be long and frustrating for people who are struggling to make ends meet. The reconsideration process takes several months to complete, and it can take up to two years to schedule a hearing before an administrative law judge.