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How To Appeal A Denied SSDI Application

Last updated: November 18, 2023

Navigating the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process can often be a labyrinth of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic hoop-jumping. It's not uncommon for initial applications to be denied; understanding why, how to appeal, and strategies for strengthening future applications is paramount for many Americans relying on SSDI support. 

This article offers a comprehensive guide on SSDI application denial, the process and stages of appeals—reconsideration, ALJ hearing, Appeals Council review, and federal court appeal. It also highlights the benefits of engaging legal help in this process and shares valuable tips to bolster your SSDI appeal chances. Expect a detailed, step-by-step look into each aspect of the SSDI application appeal process.

Understanding SSDI Application Denial

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application denial can be a disheartening outcome for people who have been anticipating the benefits. It's crucial to understand what it means, why it happens, and the effects on the applicant.

What is SSDI Application Denial?

An SSDI application denial means that your application for disability benefits has been rejected by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The denial could be due to various factors, such as insufficient medical evidence, exceeding income limits, or non-compliance with therapy, among other reasons.

 Applicants have the right to appeal against a denial, and the appeals process includes several stages. This process is often complex and can seem overwhelming, especially to disabled individuals who are already going through a challenging phase in their lives. After rejection, a written notice is sent to the applicant explaining why the application was denied. 

This may include the reasons related to the disability eligibility or non-medical reasons such as work history or income. If the application was denied due to medical reasons, the notice would outline the medical condition, the treatment obtained, and what was considered when making the decision.

Common Reasons for SSDI Application Denial

As mentioned earlier, there can be several reasons for an SSDI application denial. Among the most common is a lack of sufficient medical evidence. The SSA has specific guidelines for what qualifies as disabling conditions, and if an applicant’s medical records do not provide enough proof of such a condition, the application may get denied.

Another primary reason is the duration of the disability. The SSA grants benefits only to those whose disability is expected to last at least a year or result in death. If you have a condition that is likely to improve or isn't expected to last a year, your application may be denied.

Income can also be a reason for denial. If you are working and earning more than the SSDI’s substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit, your application could get denied, as the SSA may deem you capable of earning a living.

The Impact of a Denied SSDI Application

An SSDI application denial can disrupt the lives of applicants and their families. The denial can delay the financial support these individuals need for everyday living and medical care. Such a situation may lead to increased financial stress, particularly for those applicants who have been unable to work due to their disabilities.

In addition to the financial impact, being denied for disability benefits can also have a psychological impact. This emotional toll can add to the struggles of dealing with a disability. The longer the denial appeals process, the longer the person must live with the uncertainty of their future.

Fortunately, it's important to remember that a denial is not the end of the road. Many initial applications are denied, and the applicant often succeeds in securing benefits during the appeal process with the right kind of support and assistance. Thus, understanding the reasons for denial and taking proactive steps can significantly help in overcoming the obstacles in the SSDI claim process.

Reconsideration after SSDI Denial

Though being denied SSDI benefits is distressing, especially when facing health challenges, it's not the end. You can request a reconsideration appeal, asking SSA to review your application again. Understanding the process can ease navigation and increase success chances. Hence, learning how to prepare and request for reconsideration becomes crucial.

How Does Reconsideration Work

Reconsideration, the first appeal step after SSDI denial, involves an exhaustive review of all original claim evidence, plus any new data. A different adjudicator, uninvolved in the initial decision, conducts this, following the same laws for an unbiased verdict. Depending on your case's complexity and additional information, this process can last from 30 days to weeks. The SSA will then communicate their decision via a letter.

How to Request Reconsideration

Filing for reconsideration can be done online, in person, or by mail, requiring forms like the Disability Report-Appeals form and others. It's crucial to accurately complete these forms, leaving no questions unanswered. You have a 60-day window from your denial letter's receipt to request a reconsideration. Apply through the SSA website, at a local office, or by mail.

Preparing for a Reconsideration Review

Preparation is key in successful SSDI reconsideration. Compile detailed records of your disability, treatments, and their impact on daily life and work. Include medical documents, testimonies, and a medication list. Consider hiring an SSDI attorney for guidance. If denied, more appeals steps are available. Remember, each case is unique, thus seek personalized advice for this intricate process.

Tips to Strengthen Your SSDI Appeal

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a complex and challenging process, especially when your application is denied, necessitating an appeal. If you find yourself in this predicament, you might wonder how to strengthen your appeal and increase the probability of a favorable outcome.

Documenting Your Disability Properly

Your SSDI appeal's success is largely contingent on how accurately and comprehensively your disability is documented. When filing an appeal, ensure your documentation clearly describes how your disability impedes your ability to work. Information that should be included encompasses how your condition impacts your daily activities, your level of mobility, and your cognitive functioning.

Comprehensive documentation would mean collecting all relevant medical records and ensuring they are up-to-date. These could contain doctors' diagnoses, treatment plans, or medical tests. Additional evidence like letters from employer’s commenting on your ability to work, or testimonies from friends, family, or anyone who can back up your claim, can provide further proof of your inability to work due to your disability.

Proving Your Medical Condition Meets SSDI Criteria

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a catalog of medical conditions that automatically render a person as disabled, provided the condition meets specific criteria. This "Listing of Impairments" often serves as a baseline when deciding on SSDI applications. Particularly, the SSA would want to confirm that your condition is equal to or more severe than one on this list.

To maximize your appeal success, confirm if your medical condition is listed in the SSA's impairment listing and provide clear evidence demonstrating how your condition meets or surpasses the necessary criteria. If your medical condition isn't on this list, consult an experienced SSDI attorney to help document how your disability is just as severe as a condition that is listed.

Importance of Timely and Consistent Medical Treatment

The SSA gives significant credence to your medical history, highlighting the importance of maintaining regular, timely medical treatment. Regular doctor's visits and adherence to prescribed treatments not only show your proactive effort to manage your condition, but it also offers a detailed, chronological report of your condition’s progression and its impact on your life.

Proof of seeking treatment like doctor’s appointments records, medication history, and therapy sessions supplement your medical records and further strengthen your appeal. Discrepancies or inconsistencies in your treatment history could cast a shadow of uncertainty, making the importance of regular and consistent treatment paramount to your case.

Fulfilling the Work History Requirement

Eligibility for SSDI benefits isn't just about proving a disabling condition; work history also matters. Generally, you must have worked long enough, and recently enough, paying Social Security taxes to be eligible for SSDI benefits. Ensure you correctly document your work history when filing an appeal.

Understanding how to meet this requirement can be confusing, as it is based upon a system of work credits. You earn these credits based on total yearly wages or self-employment income. An experienced SSDI attorney can provide clarity on the intricacies of this requirement and help illustrate that you have met the work history requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the process for appealing a denied SSDI application?

To appeal a denied SSDI application, submit a request for reconsideration to the Social Security Administration (SSA). This request can be submitted online via the SSA's website or through a local Social Security office.

2. What details are necessary when filing an appeal for a denied SSDI application?

Significant details include, but are not limited to, personal data, medical condition information, medical treatment details, employment history, and the reasons you believe the initial decision was mistaken.

3. How much time is available to appeal a denied SSDI application?

The timeframe for appealing a denied SSDI application is typically 60 days following the receipt of the denial letter. Late appeals may be considered if there are valid reasons for the delay.


In conclusion, an SSDI appeal should not be taken lightly, and several factors must be meticulously accounted for to make a compelling case. Properly documenting your disability, ensuring your condition meets SSDI criteria, maintaining regular and timely medical treatment, and accurately fulfilling the work history requirement can increase the likelihood of your appeal ending in your favor.

If you wish to learn more about SSDI and VA disability, read more about it from our blogs at Disability Help today.

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Victor Traylor
An expert to the field of Social Justice, Victor formed Disability Help to connect ideas and expertise from the US with rising global cultural leadership, building networks, fostering collaboration, long-term results, mutual benefit, and more extensive international perception.
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