When Massachusetts residents suffer from an injury, illness or condition that leaves them unable to work, Social Security Disability benefits can be extraordinarily helpful. When applying for disability benefits, it is not a guarantee that the initial application will be approved. Many people are dispirited by this information. However, they should know that an appeal can be effective to get an approval even after the claim was first denied.

This requires understanding the four levels of appeal. After a denial, the Social Security Administration must receive the written request to appeal within 60 days. The levels of appeal are: reconsideration; an administrative law judge hearing; an Appeals Council review; and a Federal Court review.

Reconsideration is done by a person who did not have any role in the initial decision. The entire case will be reviewed with the evidence that was presented in the initial application. If there is new evidence, it can be added for the reconsideration. If the claim is again denied, there can be an ALJ hearing. This will be heard by an ALJ who did not have a role in the initial application or the reconsideration. It will be held within 75 miles of the applicant’s residence. The ALJ will question the applicant and witnesses. Medical and vocational experts can testify. This can be held via video.

With the Appeals Council, it is not required that it hears the appeal. It considers the request, but if it determines that the decision was justified, it can deny the Appeals Council review. If it does deny the request, the final step is a federal court case to attempt to be approved to receive Social Security disability benefits.