Woman sitting in a wheelchair looking forlorn.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to eligible disabled individuals who are unable to work as a result of their physical or mental condition. Many people rely on these benefits to make ends meet when they can no longer work due to their disability. But unfortunately, getting approved for SSDI benefits is not easy, which is why you should seek legal representation from an experienced Tampa Social Security disability attorney.

Over 70% of initial SSDI applications are denied every year. But you still have a chance to obtain benefits even if your initial claim is denied. Applicants who have been denied have the opportunity to appeal the SSA’s decision and continue fighting for the benefits they need.

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What are the different steps in the process of appealing the SSA’s decision? How long will an appeal take? Here’s what you need to know:

When Can You File An Appeal?

If your disability claim was denied, it’s important to contact an attorney and begin the process of filing an appeal as quickly as possible. The SSA must receive your written request to appeal within 60 days from the date you received their decision. If you miss this deadline, you will lose the right to file an appeal.

What to Expect After Filing An SSDI Appeal

The four steps in the SSDI appeals process are:

  • Reconsideration
  • Administrative Law Judge Hearing
  • Appeals Council Review
  • Federal Court Review


The first stage of the process is reconsideration, which is a complete review of your claim by someone who was not involved in the initial review of your claim. The person who reviews your claim will look at evidence submitted with your initial application and any new evidence you have submitted since your claim was denied.

Administrative Law Judge Hearing

If your appeal is denied at the reconsideration stage, you must request a hearing with an administrative law judge. The SSA may ask you to provide additional evidence or clarify certain parts of your claim prior to the hearing.

During the hearing, the administrative law judge will ask you and your witnesses questions related to your claim. You and your attorney will also have an opportunity to call and question witnesses that can provide testimony to support your claim. Medical and vocational experts typically serve as witnesses during these hearings.

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These experts can help a judge understand the severity of your disability and how your disability limits your ability to find and maintain employment. For example, a vocational expert can explain what jobs you are qualified for based on your educational background and training, whereas a medical expert can explain how your disability restricts your ability to perform specific tasks such as standing, lifting, and walking.

The administrative law judge will not reveal their decision right away. Instead, you must wait to receive a copy of their decision in the weeks or months following your hearing.

Appeals Council Review

If your appeal is denied at the hearing stage of the process, you have the option of asking the Appeals Council to review your case. There is no guarantee that the Appeals Council will agree to review your case. If the Appeals Council grants your request, they will either decide the case on their own or send it back to an administrative law judge for additional review.

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Either way, you will be notified of how the Appeals Council handled your case. This means you will either receive a copy of the Appeals Council’s decision or a copy of their order to an administrative law judge to take another look at your case.

Federal Court Review

The final step in the appeals process is the federal court review. You may need to take this step if the Appeals Council chooses not to review your case or if they deny your claim and you disagree with their decision.

Your attorney can assist you with the process of filing a lawsuit in federal court. Few cases make it to this level of the appeals process, but if necessary, our attorneys are willing to help you fight for the benefits you deserve in federal court.

How Long Will It Take to Appeal the SSA’s Decision?

Each case is unique, so the time that it will take to successfully appeal the SSA’s decision will vary on a case-by-case basis.

It takes about 100 days to get a decision in the reconsideration stage of the appeals process. But unfortunately, only about 3% of people who file an appeal win at this stage. If you are denied again at this stage, you will have 60 days to request a hearing with an administrative law judge.

Then, you will need to wait for a hearing date to be scheduled. This can take anywhere from several months to over a year, depending on your location. After the hearing, you will need to wait another several weeks or months for the judge’s decision. On average, the process of getting a hearing, attending the hearing, and waiting for the judge’s decision takes about two years.

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If the judge denies your claim, you will need to move onto the next stage of the process, which is requesting an Appeals Council review. This process—requesting the review and waiting for the results of the review—can add another six months to two years on to the appeals process. This process is different for every state.

Seek Legal Representation From Our Social Security Disability Attorneys

Winning an appeal is not easy, which is why you should never face this challenge alone. If your application has been denied, turn to the trusted Social Security disability attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Since 1971, our attorneys have helped disabled clients win over $50 million in Social Security disability benefits. Let us guide you through the process of appealing the SSA’s decision and work tirelessly to reach the best possible outcome in your case.

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