Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a long and confusing process. The Social Security Administration, or SSA, denies the majority of disability benefits during the initial stages of review. Therefore, disability applicants should appeal the disability benefit denial throughout the various stages of appeal.

If the SSA denied your application for disability benefits at the initial stage, at the reconsideration stage, and at the hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), you can consider filing a request for review with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council reviews the ALJ’s decision to determine whether the ALJ made an error in denying the disability benefits application. You do not appear and testify before the Appeals Council.  Instead, the Appeals Council examines evidence included in your file and the transcript from your hearing.  The Appeals Council will affirm the ALJ’s decision, overturn the ALJ’s decision, or remand the case to the ALJ for a new hearing.

If the Appeals Council agrees with the ALJ decision, there is a further appeal to the United States District Court.  Just like at the Appeals Council, you will not testify in District Court.  And just like at the Appeals Council, the district Court will examine the evidence in your file and the transcript from your hearing to decide if the ALJ made an error in deciding your case.

The decision whether or not to appeal an unfavorable ruling from the ALJ is complicated.  That’s why you need an experienced Social Security disability lawyer on your case from the early stages.