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How To Win An SSI Appeal | 5 Tips For Winning (Full Guide)

Millions of Americans find themselves needing some financial assistance after suffering a disability that leaves them unable to work. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) allows individuals to get help even if they do not have sufficient work history to qualify for SSDI. These disability benefits provide cash payments that allow them to purchase food and other necessities. Getting approved for these benefits, however, can take time and sometimes be a difficult process. So, what happens if your initial application for benefits is denied? You will need to appeal that decision with the Social Security Administration. So, how do you file a proper appeal and increase your chances of winning the appeal? If you are wondering how to win an SSDI reconsideration, then keep reading!


Social Security Disability Appeal Basics

Believe it or not, most applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied upon the initial application. Typically, only the most obvious and “slam dunk” claims are approved after the first step of the application process. If your application for benefits is denied, that does not always mean that you do not qualify for benefits. It often requires an appeal of this initial decision to get your benefits approved. Many people wonder how to appeal a disability decision. The appeals process is the same for SSI vs SSDI.

First, you can simply submit a request for reconsideration. You might have some additional evidence or medical records to provide and you are requesting that the SSA reconsider their decision. Most initial determinations are made by local Disability Determination Services (DDS). These are often state agencies that make the initial decision for the SSA. Your reconsideration request is asking the SSA to review and reconsider the decision made by this agency. This is sometimes successful, but not often.

The next step is requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge. At this hearing, you can present evidence and show your case to the judge. There will also be a vocational expert present to assess your ability to perform meaningful work. This allows the judge to carefully review the medical evidence and make a determination about your disability status. Most appeals are won at the hearing level. You should know that scheduling a hearing as part of the appeals process can take quite some time. In some cases, it might be 12 months or more before you can get a hearing after an initial denial of benefits. You are now able to check the status of your appeal at your local Social Security office or online at

If you are unsuccessful at the hearing, you can continue to appeal your case. Your next step would be to the Appeals Council and finally to Federal court if the Appeals Council review is unsuccessful. Very few cases actually make it to Federal District Court in reality. If your benefits are not approved at the hearing level, then many cases simply get dropped at that point.


Tips For Winning Your SSI Or SSDI Appeal

Many people wonder how to win a disability appeal. There are several rules that you must follow as well as many tips to help your case. Here are the things that you need to do.


Write Your Appeals Letter

If your disability claim is denied, then you will first need to write your appeals letter. This is the first step in the appeals process. When Social Security sends you their determination, it would include a lot of valuable information about why your claim was denied. You should thoroughly read this and look for mistakes or inconsistencies between their decision and your claim. Although the appeals form does not allow much room for writing, you can always attach additional pages as necessary. Make sure that you clearly lay out the reasons that you feel your claim was improperly denied, and always refer to the evidence in your medical records when describing your situation. Describe all your impairments and medical conditions and how those prevent you from being able to work. A detailed and well written appeals letter has a much higher chance of being successful. You can even find some good Social Security appeal letter samples online.


Ensure All Filings Are On Time

The Social Security Administration has strict rules about the timeframes given to file documents. This applies to your request for reconsideration, your letter of appeal, your request for a hearing, and all other document filings associated with your claim. If you miss a filing deadline, then your claim is likely to get dismissed right away. Even if you have a valid claim, missing a deadline will get it denied regardless of your arguments or the evidence.


Present Supporting Medical Records

This is one of the biggest reasons that claims get denied. People often fail to support their arguments with the proper medical records. In addition to simply providing your records, it is a good idea to ask your doctor to write a supporting opinion letter for you. This will allow the Social Security Administration to hear directly from your doctor about specifically what you are or are not able to perform in terms of work. A doctor can often present things more clearly when it comes to medical evidence than you might be able to write on your own. A supporting opinion from your doctor goes a long way toward convincing a judge that you have a valid claim.


Consider Hiring An Attorney

Many people have trouble navigating the legal system when it comes to their disability case. Knowing that they must file the proper forms, meet all the deadlines, and write up presentations of their evidence tends to overwhelm many people. That is why a lot of people turn to an attorney, especially when it comes to a disability hearing. Completing the initial SSD application on your own is fairly easy, but an attorney is often needed to help get your case approved at the appeals level. If you need help or have received a denial letter, then you should probably consider hiring a disability lawyer to help you.


Do Not Give Up

Many claimants fail to get their claim approved because they give up too soon. Just because your disability application is initially denied does not mean that you should just accept that decision. You might have eligibility for benefits and simply need to go through a couple of levels of appeal to get approved. Many people give up because the process takes time, and they get discouraged. If you think that you have a valid claim, then consider consulting a Social Security disability attorney or law firm to help you with your claim. Most firms will offer you a free case evaluation, so that is a great way to get some advice from an attorney.


Options After Your Social Security Disability Appeal

If you go through the ALJ hearing and Appeals Council and still have your claim denied, all hope is not lost. You can still file a claim in Federal District court and ask that the court review your claim. There are a few outcomes that you can expect at this level. The District Court might send your case back to the SSA and ask them to reconsider the claim. They could also opt to go ahead and approve your claim or even dismiss your case. Once you get to this step, an attorney is almost always needed to file the case in Federal court. In reality, very few cases make it this far. Many attorneys are unwilling to continue with a disability claim this far because the odds of winning are extremely small unless there is new evidence that perhaps was not available or presented in the initial claim and appeals process.


The Bottom Line

Many disability claims are initially denied, but there is an appeals process that you can go through to potentially still get them approved. There are several helpful tips that you must follow to improve your chances of winning your appeal and getting your award letter. One disclaimer – the information contained in this article is not legal advice. If you have specific questions, then you should always consult the help of a qualified attorney.


Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of disability appeals are approved?

In recent years, about 40% of appeals are approved at the hearing stage. This is much higher than those approved at the reconsideration level which is less than 10%. In most cases, your odds of getting approved during the appeal process is much higher if you have an attorney working on your case.


How long does an SSI appeal take?

The SSI appeals process is not a quick process. It can often take 12-18 months to complete an appeal of your initial decision. This is one reason that many people give up too soon because they simply cannot wait that long to get help. For that reason, many will attempt to return to work because they need the money.


What are the best arguments for a disability appeal?

Are you still wondering how to win your disability appeal hearing? The best arguments are the ones that clearly display your medical conditions that qualify for disability and describe how those impairments prevent you from working. You must clearly show to the judge that you are unable to perform work due to your condition. The best advice is often to get help with your disability appeal from an attorney.

Elliot Marks

Elliot Marks

Elliot has spent years providing clear and concise information to help navigate the complex nuances of social security and many other government services in the United States. Elliot has a passion for helping those in need of these services to be able to find timely access to news and information that is relevant and helpful to their daily lives.