How the Social Security Disability Legal Process Works

After applying for Social Security Disability benefits, you may want to know more about the Social Security Disability legal process. You may have questions about the application process, appeals process, reapplying, or eligibility.

We will walk you through the steps to help you feel prepared for the legal process. You can also call us at the number above to speak with a qualified customer care team member that can help answer your specific questions.

Steps in the Social Security Disability Benefits Legal Process

Take some time to review information about each of these steps in the Social Security Disability benefits legal process:

  • Application Process
  • Reconsideration
  • Hearing Level
  • Appeals Council
  • Federal Appeal

Application Process

You can begin your application process by utilizing the Social Security Administration (SSA) application checklist. This will ensure you have sufficient evidence to submit your claim. You must also verify that you meet the eligibility requirements for the SSA definition of disability. This includes:

  • Sufficient work credits for your age
  • Adequate medical evidence of your disability
  • SSA definition of disability:
    • You are unable to do work that you previously did.
    • You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).
    • Your disability has already or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.


From the application date, the Disability Determination Services (DDS) requires about 3-6 months to issue a determination on your initial application. We know that the application process can seem daunting and confusing, which is why we have a team of skilled professionals ready to help you avoid making simple mistakes on your initial application.


If your application was denied, you can file an appeal instead of reapplying. Reconsideration is considered the first level of the appeal process.

The wait time for a reconsideration of your initial denial is about 3-4 months from the date you file your request. At this level, your case is reviewed by a group of SSA officials that did not take part in the initial decision for your claim.

Hearing Level

If your request for reconsideration was denied or resulted in a denied determination of benefits, you can issue another appeal. In this situation, your case will be reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge. The judge may grant you approval for benefits, even if you were previously denied.

It’s important to know that while you wait for an appeal hearing, you can reapply for benefits if something changes with your disability. If your condition worsens and you meet the Social Security Disability Blue Book listing for your disability, you can submit a new application.

Appeals Council

If the administrative law judge denies your claim, you have the option to appeal the decision to the Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council decides to review your claim, it can take up to one year to receive the decision. The length of time it takes the Appeals Council to reach a decision depends on:

  • The number of decision-makers available.
  • Amount of evidence in your case.
  • Level of complexity for your case.

Federal Appeal

If the Appeals Council denies your request for review or determines that the Administrative Law Judge’s decision was correct, you can appeal the decision to federal district court. The length of time it takes the federal district court to make a decision on an appeal is about eight months from the date the appeal is filed.

Social Security Disability Benefits Timeline

It is important to know that the Social Security Administration is not legally required to follow a deadline for approval. Decision times depend on these factors:

  • Are you at the initial application stage, or have you appealed?
  • The U.S. state you live in and the length of the backlog at your hearing office.
  • How quickly you or your doctors provide the necessary medical records.
  • Whether your case is pulled for a quality review.
  • Whether your case can be expedited.

Reasons Why You Could be Denied Benefits

During the application process, you may receive a denial notice from the Social Security Administration. Do not worry! You have the opportunity to reapply or appeal. Here are some reasons, though, why your application could be initially denied:

  • Your medical condition has not lasted or is not expected to last at least one year or more.
  • You make too much money. If you make more than $1,220 per month, you will be denied.
  • You refuse to follow your doctor’s treatment protocol. There are exceptions to this rule, such as not taking medications for religious reasons or not being able to afford treatment.
  • You refuse to release information or medical records to the SSA.
  • You do not have enough work credits. In this case, you must obtain more work credits to be eligible for benefits.
  • The SSA cannot locate or contact you.
  • You committed a crime.
  • Your disability is the result of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • There was a mistake in your application.
  • There is not enough medical evidence.

Reapplying After a Denial

Time is crucial once you decide to reapply following a denied determination notice. This is because disability examiners that review applications for benefits must follow strict guidelines.

– If your disability has worsened or if you have significant medical evidence, then reapplying could be the right choice for your claim.

– If your first application was denied because of lack of adequate medical evidence, you may decide to reapply now and submit the necessary medical records along with your application.

Keep in mind that no matter how many times you apply, if nothing is different with your application details, medical records, or your physical and/or mental limitations, then you will likely be denied again.

To get assistance with reapplying for Social Security Disability benefits, contact one of our trained team members at the number above.

Appealing After a Denial

If your application was denied, you can file an appeal instead of reapplying. In this situation, your case will be reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge.

The judge may approve you for benefits, even if you previously applied and were denied more than once.

It’s important to know that while you wait for an appeal hearing, you can reapply for benefits if something changes with your disability. If your condition worsens and you meet the Blue Book listing for your disability, you can submit a new application.

If you meet a disability listing exactly, then you more than likely will qualify for benefits. However, you will still need to ensure the Social Security Administration has access to your new medical records.

How Long Will I Continue to Receive Disability Benefits?

Once you are approved to receive Social Security Disability benefits, you may wonder how long you will continue to receive benefits. The good news is that you will continue to receive benefits as long as you remain disabled. Then, upon reaching retirement age, your benefits will convert to retirement benefits, which will continue throughout the remainder of your life.

While there are no set dates that Social Security Disability benefits will stop once you start receiving them, there are certain legal factors that could possibly result in the end of your benefits:

  • Type of disability benefits you receive
  • Medical improvements
  • Your income/resources
  • Your age
  • Incarceration

This is why The Social Security Administration will review your case periodically to make sure you still have a qualifying disability.

Reviewing Your Medical Condition

A continuing disability review is when the SSA reviews your medical condition from time to time. If the evidence shows that your condition has medically improved and you can return to work, your disability benefits may stop.

Depending on how severe your condition is and how likely your condition will improve determines how often your medical condition is reviewed. Your initial award notice will tell you when you can expect your first medical review, which may include:

  • If medical improvement is expected, because your condition is expected to improve within a specific time, your first review will be six to 18 months after you started getting disability benefits.
  • If your medical condition shows possible improvement, the review for your case will happen about every three years.
  • If your medical condition is not expected to improve, your review will be conducted every five to seven years.

When To Update SSA on Your Medical Condition

You are responsible to notify the SSA by phone, mail, or in person if:

  • There’s any change in your ability to work.
  • You return to work.
  • Your medical condition improves.

Other things you will need to inform SSA about are:

  • If you work while receiving disability payments.
  • If you receive other disability benefits.
  • If you’re offered services under the Ticket to Work program.
  • If you move.
  • If you change direct deposit accounts.
  • If you’re unable to manage your benefits.
  • If you get a pension from work not covered by Social Security.
  • If you get married or divorced.
  • If you change your name.
  • If you care for a child who receives benefits.
  • If you become a parent after entitlement.
  • If a child receiving benefits is adopted.
  • If you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest.
  • If you’re convicted of a crime.
  • If you violate a condition of parole or probation.
  • If you leave the United States.
  • If your citizenship status changes.
  • If a beneficiary dies.
  • If you’re receiving Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits.

If you believe the Social Security Administration wrongfully revoked your benefits, you can contact us at the number above for assistance.

Assistance With Social Security Disability Legal Process

Some claims are denied for simple mistakes in the application itself. To avoid problems in your initial application, second application, or appeal process, contact one of our qualified professionals for step-by-step instructions on the application process. We can help alleviate some of the stress associated with the legal process of your application.

We can also assist you with gathering crucial evidence to support your claim and increase your chances of approval process. How so? Applicants that utilize a legal representative are proven to be 75 percent more successful than applicants that do not use a representative. Call us today to increase your chances for approval!

Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

    1. Do you expect to be out of work for at least 12 months?

    2. Did you earn taxable income for 5 of the last 10 years?

    3. Are you currently receiving disability benefits?

    4. Have you seen a doctor within the last 12 months?

    5. Are you currently working with a disability advocate?

    Please be aware that SSDI and Unemployment are different. This information is for SSDI and NOT Unemployment.

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