An overview of the Social Security appeal process

A disabled Michigan resident can appeal if the Social Security Administration denies the initial application for disability benefits or supplemental security income. Here are the levels and timelines for the appeal.

Appeal request must be made in writing and within 60 days

If the applicant would like to appeal, the applicant must file a request for appeal in writing within 60 days from the date when the applicant receives a initial notice of denial decision. SSA assumes that the applicant receives the notice five days from the date on the notice. If the applicant receives the notice at a later date, the applicant must prove when it was received.

Disability appeal

If the reasons for the initial denial are medical, the applicant can request an appeal from the Disability appeal office. Disability appeals and regular appeals go through a similar procedure. In a disability appeal, however, the applicant needs to complete an appeal disability report and sign the authorization to release medical records, in addition to filing a request for reconsideration. SSA needs to review the applicant's medical records for medical-reason appeals.

Late request for reconsideration

With a good cause, a late filing of a request for reconsideration may be accepted if the applicant misses the 60-day timeline. To determine the existence of a good cause, SSA must consider (1) all the circumstances that prevented the applicant from filing a timely request for reconsideration and (2) the applicant's medical, physical, educational and linguistic hardships.

The second level: a hearing before an administrative law judge

If the applicant disagrees with the reconsideration decision, the applicant can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. The applicant must make the request in writing within 60 days from the date when the applicant receives a decision of the reconsideration. SSA assumes that the applicant receives a notice of ALJ's decision within five days from the date of the decision.

The third level: a review by appeals council

The third level of appeal is a review by Social Security's appeals council. The applicant must request this review in writing within 60 days from the date when the applicant receives a notice of ALJ's decision or dismissal. If the applicant needs to collect additional evidence, the applicant may request an extension of the filing time in writing. The applicant cannot make a request for a review by appeals council online. The appeals council may deny a review if the council believes that ALJ's decision is correct.

The fourth level: federal district court

The fourth level of appeal is filing a lawsuit against SSA in federal district court. For Warren residents, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, based in Detroit, has jurisdiction over Social Security appeal cases. The applicant must file a lawsuit in federal district court within 60 days from the date the applicant receives a notice from appeals council.

Many initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied, sometimes due to technical errors or simple mistakes. Denied applicants should not give up but contact a Social Security disability attorney for help.