Who Reviews my SSA Application?

After filing an initial application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), many applicants wonder who is in charge of reviewing their application.  The answer to this question depends on which stage you are at in the application process.  Let’s take a look at the different steps involved in an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and who reviews your application at each step in the process:

1) Initial Determination – In Ohio, after an application is filed it is then reviewed by a state agency which is hired by the SSA to review initial applications. The agency will collect all evidence it deems necessary to reach a decision in your case. The majority of initial applications for disability benefits in Ohio are denied during the Initial Determination stage.

2) Reconsideration – You will have sixty days after a denial in the Initial Determination stage to file an appeal.  The first step of the appeals process is a Reconsideration. During the Reconsideration stage, the same agency will take another look at your case and any new evidence to decide whether to accept or deny your claim. Ninety percent of claims in Ohio are denied once again during Reconsideration.

3) Hearing – After a denial of Reconsideration, you once again have sixty days to file another appeal. The next step of the appeal process is a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. This hearing is the best chance you have to get a favorable decision in your case.  At the hearing, you will be given the chance to introduce any new evidence to support your claim, testify, call witnesses, and cross-examine any experts that the SSA may produce.  The waiting period to appear before an ALJ averages from twelve to sixteen months.  After the hearing, you may not receive a decision for several more months. Fifty-five percent of claims are approved at this level of the appeals process.

4) Appeals Council – You will once again have sixty days after you receive a decision from the ALJ to file an appeal.  The next step in the appeals process is a review by the SSA’s Appeals Council.  You can submit a written argument to support your case at this stage of the appeals process, but a new hearing is not held. Delays for Appeals Council reviews can be from eighteen to thirty-six months, and eighty percent of claims are denied by the Appeals Council.

5) Federal Court Review – This is the last stop in the appeals process. You will once again have sixty days after an Appeals Council denial to appeal their decision. This allows you to file a lawsuit in the United States District Court to review the SSA’s decision to deny your claim.

As you can tell, the application and appeals process for SSDI claims is a long and complicated one.  To increase your chances of success early on in the application process, always consult a legal professional with experience in Social Security Disability cases.

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