Understanding Supplemental Security Income Appeals Process -- 2022 Edition

APPEALS PROCESS

You can appeal most determinations and decisions we make about whether you can get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or if we make changes to your benefit amount. That means you can ask us to look at your case again.

When you ask for an appeal, we will look at the entire determination or decision, even those parts that were in your favor.

HOW TO APPEAL SOCIAL SECURITY DETERMINATIONS AND DECISIONS

We have established appeals procedures for individuals who disagree with the determination(s) or decision(s) we make. The determination(s) or decision(s) that you can appeal are called "initial determinations" and we discuss them further below. The levels of appeal are:

    small blue and black arrowReconsideration;

    small blue and black arrowHearing by an administrative law judge;

    small blue and black arrowAppeals Council Review; and

    small blue and black arrowFederal Court.

INITIAL DETERMINATION

We call the determinations we make that you can appeal “initial determinations.” These determinations are SSA’s written findings regarding any legal or factual issue, including but not limited to:

    small blue and black arrowWhether you are eligible for SSI.

    small blue and black arrowThe amount of your SSI payment.

    small blue and black arrowThe fact that you were overpaid, the amount of the overpayment, and whether you must repay it.

After you file an application for SSI, we will mail you a written initial determination.  This is your first “initial determination”, but each time we make a determination about your eligibility or payment amount after that is also an initial determination.

Every time we make an initial determination, we will send you a notice. If you want to appeal the initial determination in that notice, you must request an appeal in writing within 60 days of the date you receive your notice. That notice will tell you how to appeal. The notice will also tell you if you are entitled to continued benefits. If you file an appeal for a non-medical initial determination within 60 days of the date you receive your notice, your SSI benefits may continue at the same amount until we make a determination on your appeal. If you file an appeal for a medical disability cessation within 10 days of the date you receive your notice and elect payment continuation, your SSI benefits may continue at the same amount until we make a determination on your appeal.

Contact us an we can help you file your appeal.

NOTE You may appoint a representative to act for you in the Social Security appeals process. For information on how to appoint a representative, see "How Someone Can Help You With Your SSI".

STEPS IN THE APPEALS PROCESS

1.  RECONSIDERATION

If you disagree with the initial determination, you may request reconsideration.

  • For a disability claim or non-medical issue, take one of the following actions.
    • Online
      The quickest and easiest way to file a request for a reconsideration on a disability claim or non-disability issue is online at our Appeal a Decision page. Select “Reconsideration” and then the “Request Medical Reconsideration” or “Request Non-Medical Reconsideration” button as applicable. Follow the instructions on the screens to complete and submit the appeal electronically.
    • Send Us a Form by Mail or Fax
      You may also download, complete, and print the form Request for Reconsideration (SSA-561-U2) and then mail the completed form to your local Social Security office. You can find the local office fax number and address from the Social Security Office Locator page by entering your ZIP code.
  • Medical Disability Cessation

    You may write to us or complete a Form SSA-789 (Request for Reconsideration Disability Cessation).

You or your representative must ask in writing for reconsideration within 60 days of the date you receive the written notice of the initial determination. We consider that you receive a notice 5 days after the date on the notice unless you show us evidence it was received after the five days.

Payment Continuation for non-medical initial determination and medical disability cessation determination:

  • Non-Medical Initial Determination:

    • If you ask for reconsideration in writing within 10 days of the date you receive the notice, any payment we are currently making will continue until we make our reconsideration determination, if you continue to meet all other SSI eligibility requirements.
    • If you ask for a reconsideration more than 10 days after the of the date you receive the notice, but within 60 days of the date you receive the notice, your payment may decrease temporarily. However, we will restart any payment we are currently making once we receive and enter your reconsideration. You will continue to receive that payment until we make our reconsideration determination if you continue to meet all other SSI eligibility requirements.
    • If you do not want to continue to receive payments, you can ask us not to continue payments by completing Form SSA-263 (Waiver of Supplemental Security Income Payment Continuation).

  • Medical Disability Cessation Determination:

    • If you appeal a medical disability cessation determination and you want to keep receiving benefits until we make a new determination, you must complete a written request for benefit continuation within 10 days after the date you receive the written notice. You are entitled to a hearing with a disability hearing officer.

We will send you (and your representative if you have one) a notice of the reconsideration determination.

We have released a new and improved service to check the status of your appeal. The service provides detailed information about disability and Supplemental Security Income appeals filed either online at www.ssa.gov or with a Social Security employee. To check the status of your appeal Code of Federal Regulations § 404.930, create or log in to your personal my Social Security account.

2.  HEARING

If you disagree with the reconsideration determination, you or your representative may request a hearing before a judge by writing to us or by completing a Form HA–501 (Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge). Go to www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html to complete an online request for a hearing. If needed, we can help you complete this form.

You or your representative must request a hearing within 60 days after you get the notice of reconsideration determination (or, in rare cases, the initial determination). We consider that you receive the notice 5 days after the date on the notice. You or your representative may review your file before the hearing and may submit or inform us about new evidence no later than 5 business days before the date of the hearing. You may continue to receive your SSI if you are appealing a determination that your disability has ended. You must ask in writing for your benefits to continue within 10 days of the cessation notice.

If you do not want to appear at a hearing before a judge, you or your representative may ask the judge to make a decision based on the evidence in your file.

If you do want to have a hearing before a judge, it is very important that you or your representative appear at the scheduled hearing. While the Agency determines the manner of appearance, you may request a hearing in person, by video teleconferencing or telephone. We will provide notice of the hearing date, location, and issues to be decided at least 75 days before the hearing. If for any reason you cannot make it to your hearing, contact the hearing office in writing, as soon as possible before the hearing, but not later than 5 days before the date set for the hearing or 30 days after receiving the notice of hearing, whichever is earlier, and explain why you cannot attend. If you do not attend the scheduled hearing, you may lose your appeal rights and benefits.

We may pay you for travel costs if the distance to the hearing from your home is more than 75 miles one way. If you need money for reasonable and necessary travel costs, tell the judge as soon as possible before the hearing.

The hearing process is very similar for all types of appeals. If your request for hearing is about whether you are disabled, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will focus on your medical condition(s) and make a decision based on the evidence in your case file. The ALJ may also call witnesses to testify. For example, the ALJ may call a medical or vocational expert to testify. During the non-medical hearing process, the ALJ will focus on the reason you requested a hearing and request evidence specifically related to that issue. Examples of non-medical hearing request reasons include eligibility for SSA benefits, or issues that may have caused an overpayment.

The judge may ask other witnesses, such as medical and vocational experts to testify at the hearing. At least 10 business days before the hearing, you (or your representative, if you have one) may ask the judge to order certain witnesses to attend the hearing, and the judge will decide if the witness’ testimony is reasonably necessary.  During the hearing, the judge will explain your case and may ask you and any of your witnesses questions.  You may also ask any witnesses questions and present new evidence under certain circumstances.

For claims that are based on an application for disability benefits, you (or your representative, if you have one) must inform the judge about or submit all written evidence, objections to the issues, and pre-hearing written statements no later than 5 business days prior to the scheduled hearing and must submit subpoena requests no later than 10 business days prior to the hearing. The judge may decline to obtain or consider late submissions of evidence, objections, written statements, or subpoena requests unless you meet certain requirements listed in Social Security’s rules at 20 CFR 404.935(b) and 416.1435(b). These rules do not apply to claims not based on an application for non-disability benefits (20 CFR 416.1435(c)).

The hearing is informal, but we make an audio recording. You may ask for a copy of the hearing recording.

The judge will send you (and your representative, if you have one) a copy of the hearing decision.

3.  APPEALS COUNCIL

If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you (or your representative) may request an appeal by writing to us requesting an Appeals Council review, or by completing a Form HA–520 (Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order). Go to www.ssa.gov to complete an online request for Appeals Council review. We can help you complete this form. 

You (or your representative) must ask for an Appeals Council review within 60 days after you get the hearing decision.  We consider that you receive the hearing decision 5 days after the date on the hearing decision.

The Appeals Council may also decide to review your case on its own within 60 days of the date of the decision.

You or your representative may submit or inform us about new evidence. The Appeals Council will only review a case based on additional evidence if it is new, material, related to the period on or before the hearing decision, and there is a reasonable probability the evidence would change the outcome of the decision.

The Appeals Council will examine your case and will grant, deny, or dismiss your request for review.

If the Appeals Council grants your request for review, it will either decide your case or return it to a judge for further action, which could include another hearing and a new decision. If the Appeals Council plans to issue a decision that is less than fully favorable to you and does not intend to remand the case for further proceedings, it will send you (and your representative) a notice of its proposed action and will allow you or your representative an opportunity to respond before issuing the decision. The Appeals Council may issue a fully favorable decision, remand your case for further proceedings, or issue a decision that is favorable in part while remanding the remaining issues for further proceedings. In these circumstances, the Appeals Council will not notify you (or your representative) prior to taking action, but will send notice of its review with the decision or remand order.

The Appeals Council will send you (and your representative) a copy of the action it takes on your request for review and explain the reasons for this action.

4.  FEDERAL COURT

If the Appeals Council issues a decision or denies your request for review of a judge’s decision, and you disagree with the action of the Appeals Council, you may file a civil action with the U.S. District Court in your area.  We cannot help you file a court action.  You may want to contact a lawyer or a legal aid group to help you.

You must file an action in U.S. District Court within 60 days after you receive the notice of Appeals Council action.  We consider that you receive notice of the Appeals Council action 5 days after the date on the notice.  The U.S. District Court will review the evidence and the final Agency decision. The District Court may send the case back to the Agency, and a judge may be ordered to hold a new hearing and issue a new decision. The District Court may also direct the agency to award benefits or dismiss the case.

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