The Four Levels of a Social Security Disability Appeal

If you suffer from an injury or illness that makes it impossible for you to work for at least 12 months, you can seek benefits through the federal Social Security Administration. Unfortunately, even if your claim seems clearly to fall within the guidelines established under the law, your application may be denied. If so, though, you still have options. Here are the four levels through which a Social Security disability claim appeal will travel.


The first step you can take after the denial of an Social Security disability claim is to ask for a reconsideration. This is generally a matter of formality, as, in most states, you cannot move any further up the appeals process unless you have asked for a reconsideration. The reconsideration is conducted by a claims examiner at Disability Determination Services, and is more often than not denied.

A Social Security Disability Hearing

If, as most often happens, your request for reconsideration is denied, you can ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge. The judge will fully review your claim, as well as any new medical evidence you may have, and will render a decision based on all testimony and evidence presented. The judge may take testimony from a vocational expert regarding whether you have the capacity to work in a comparable job. Though the Social Security disability hearing offers the best chance of the reversal of a denial of benefits, it can take a long time to schedule a hearing.

The Disability Appeals Council

If your claim is rejected by the administrative law judge, you still have options. You can ask the Social Security Appeals Council, a group of more than 50 appellate judges, to review the findings of the administrative law judge to determine if any errors were made.

An Appeal in Federal District Court

The final avenue of appeal in a Social Security disability case is to the federal district court. You must file your appeal within 60 days of the decision by the Appeals Council. Technically, though you are appealing the decision of the administrative agency, your filing in federal court is in the form of an initial civil complaint. Federal law prohibits the filing of a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration, so you must name the Social Security commissioner as defendant. Once you have filed a complaint in federal district court, you have the right to appeal through the federal court system, to the U.S. Court of Appeals and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Contact the Law Office of Taylor & Boguski

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to injured people throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 856-200-8989.