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Further study into the appeals process

If you have been following our blog, you know that there is an appeals process for individuals whose application for benefits has been denied. When your claim is denied, you will receive a letter that will provide the reason for the rejection of the application. It is at this point that you can begin the appeals process.

While the time for claims processing varies, it typically takes between three to five months for applicants to learn of the status of their claim. In the case of two types of claims, the SSA turnaround will be expedited. As you may have read in previous entries, Compassionate Allowances and the Quick Disability Decision allow for hastened review of claims. Other individuals who have suffered from what could be a temporary disability, such as a stroke, may not have their application reviewed for one year.

Should you receive notice of rejection of benefits, you are able to appeal the decision. These are the four steps of the process:

1. Reconsideration

In this stage, a new administrator will review the application and any new medical evidence that is provided. At this stage in the process, your presence will not be required unless you wish to meet with a representative to provide reasons that support your claim that you have a disability.

2. Hearing

In order to reduce the burden of appearing at the hearing, the SSA will select a court within 75 miles of the claimant's home or conduct the hearing via video conference. It is expected that you will be present at this stage of the appeals process. To prepare for the hearing, the applicant is expected to review her information on file and submit any new information. During the hearing, the judge will ask questions to the claimant and any witnesses testifying. The judge's decision will be recorded and mailed to the claimant.

3. Review by Appeals Council

Should you not find satisfaction in the rendered decision, you can appeal to the Social Security's Appeals Council. When the council reviews appeals, it may reject any request if it believes that the judge's conclusion was valid. Should the council decide to move forward with review, it can make its own ruling or send the claims to another arbitrator. Any judgment will be revealed in mailed correspondence.

4. Federal Court Review

The final stage in the appeals process is to seek review in a federal district court. It is here where claimants file lawsuits for benefits. The correspondence from the Appeals Council will explain how to file suit.

While the path to receiving benefits is long and winding, it is possible to successfully petition for benefits using this route. In order to ensure the best possible outcome, it is recommended that claimants speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

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