Understanding the Social Security Appeal Process
If your Social Security disability claim has been denied it is very important to know that you can, and should, appeal the decision. It is also important to know that a Social Security denial is not a reflection of the severity of your condition, but is a better reflection of the difficulty and complexity of the disability process.
If your claim has been denied for medical reasons (Understanding Your Social Security Denial) and you are unable to work because of your Huntington’s disease, or any other condition, then your best option is to appeal. Appealing the decision protects your original application submission date and any benefits that you are owed if you are approved. For example, if you applied for disability in January 2022, appealed a denial in October 2022, then are approved for benefits in February 2023, you are awarded benefits back to January 2022. If you opted to start a new application in October 2022 instead of appealing and are approved in February 2023, you would only get benefits from October to February and you would lose everything else.
There are some important things to know about appealing a Social Security decision:
- You ONLY have 60 days to appeal the decision – this date is calculated from the date on the denial letter you receive in the mail.
- You can submit an appeal online – this is the recommended method.
- It is very important to include updated medical information and upcoming doctor’s appointments – your appeal will be stronger if you have new evidence.
- If your HD, or other conditions, have not worsened or changed much since your last claim update, be as detailed and specific as possible about all of your symptoms and limitations, even if this means you are repeating information your previously submitted.
- Once your claim has been denied, it can be very beneficial to hire an attorney, especially if you are going to appear before a judge (Hiring a Social Security disability attorney)
Within the Social Security Administration, there are three stages of appeal:
- Reconsideration – this is a paper review of your claim and is reviewed by the same office as your initial application.
- Administrative Law Judge Hearing – this is a de novo review of your claim before a judge, meaning the judge makes their own independent decision based on the evidence and is not influenced by previous decisions.
- Appeals Council – this is a paper review of the judge’s decision to determine if the judge made an error in your case. The Appeals Council cannot approve your claim, but they can send it back to the judge to have a supplemental hearing or a new hearing, depending on what is needed.
If the Appeals Council agrees that the judge made the right decision in your case and it was correctly denied, then you will either need to start over and file a new claim, or you will need to appeal the decision to federal court. This is a conversation you will want to have with a Social Security disability attorney to best understand your options.