A Guide to Different Appeal Levels for Social Security Claims

social security

In general, Social Security has a particular disability handbook, usually referred to as the blue book, which contains the list of impairments and disabilities in a human body. These listings also contain the criteria that need to be met for Social Security Disability and SSI.

On that note, most disability cases only gain immediate approval if the claim involves conditions such as paralysis of extremities, statutory blindness, mental retardation, or terminal diseases like cancer. Simply put, approval from an initial appeal is only guaranteed to individuals with a severe case of disability. Ultimately, this makes the entire process challenging, especially for people with a milder condition.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should give up after your initial appeal. Disability advocates from Utah note that people should re-appeal their claims at a different level after an initial denial. After all, having your claim denied once does not mean it will never get approved. And with that, here is a comprehensive guide of the entire disability claim processing.

Initial Appeal

As mentioned, this is a level wherein an initial claim is reviewed if it meets the criteria in the blue book. There’s only a 2% chance that your appeal will be approved. This is, of course, except for the cases mentioned above. Nonetheless, mild disabilities are less likely to get you qualified, resulting in a denial of your claim.


If you have been denied on your first appeal, you can file for reconsideration. In general, this level is just a review of the initial disability determination. However, only 13% of reconsiderations are approved. Admittedly, you still have a low chance of having your claim approved. But if you can observe, each appeal level has an increased percentage of approval. Therefore, you’re given a better chance as you move up the appeal ladder. Furthermore, you’ll be given a better shot at your claim at the next level, which is the Hearing.

Hearing Level

hearing level

Nationally, 47% of all hearings are won by a disability claimant. Your chance at winning is three times more than the actual approval percentage in the first two levels. Although your chance of approval is increased tremendously, it’s best not to procrastinate during this stage. In all honesty, this will serve as your last chance since the next few levels will only serve as a reconsideration of the hearing’s determinations. And based on prior experience, you have a slim chance at those kinds of appeal.

You’re not required to hire representation. However, according to various reports, disability claimants who have had a disability lawyer at the hearing level are three times more likely to get approval compared to other claimants. So before coming in for your hearing, it’d be wise to consider getting professional help.

Appeals Council

If your claim is denied at the hearing level, you can apply for reconsideration at the next level, which is the Social Security Appeals Council. However, only 1% of claims in this phase is approved. 9% are brought back to the hearing level, while the remaining 90% are dismissed or denied.

Federal Court

The last level of the entire process is the federal court. Nonetheless, chances of winning are as slim as ever with only 2% of them getting approved at this level. The good news, however, is that a large number of cases and claims are given a second chance. More than half of the overall applications that reach this point are brought back to the hearing level for re-assessment.

Admittedly, appealing for a disability claim is no easy feat. However, it is not entirely impossible. If you’re denied once, don’t lose hope and proceed to make appeals at different levels. And while you’re at it, it’s best to consult a disability lawyer or advocate to increase your chances of getting approved.

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