June 18, 2024


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The appeal process for Social Security programs

The Social Security Disability Appeals Process

If the Social Security Administration (SSA) sent you a letter denying your application for benefits, telling you that your benefits are being reduced, or telling you that you received an overpayment of benefits, you may be able to appeal it. You can appeal most decisions the SSA makes about your benefits. When SSA sends you that letter, it will also send you a letter with information about how you can appeal the decision.

How to file an appeal

If you appeal the decision, you will have to prepare a written appeal and file the appeal with the SSA. The SSA offers different forms that you can use to request an appeal. The SSA allows you to file an appeal and upload additional documents through its website, under the ” Disability Appeal ” page. You can currently file an appeal even outside of the US through the SSA website.

Deadlines for filing an appeal

SSA must receive your request no more than 60 days after you receive the negative decision letter. SSA will assume that you received the letter five days after the date on the letter. If you did not receive it by that date and therefore do not file the appeal on time, you will have to prove to the SSA when you received it.

If the last day to file an appeal (the 60th day) is a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the deadline will be the next business day. If you do not submit your request on time, you may lose the right to appeal the decision. In that case, the decision will be final. If you have a good reason for not filing your appeal with the SSA on time, the SSA may give you more time. In deciding if you have a good reason, the SSA will consider:

  • Conditions that could have prevented you from filing the appeal on time
  • If the SSA did something that was confusing or could be misinterpreted
  • If you did not understand what to do
  • If you have a physical or mental problem or a language barrier that prevented you from filing your appeal on time

You will need to make your request for additional time in writing and include the good reason why you were unable to file the appeal before the deadline.

The different levels of appeals

There are four levels of appeal you can use. They are:

  • Reconsideration (for disability claims)
  • A hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
  • Review by the Appeals Council
  • Review by the Federal Court

The SSA may be able to help you with the appeals process up to the time you file a civil lawsuit in federal court. At that time, the SSA will only give you information about the process.


A reconsideration is a complete review of your claim by someone who was not involved in the decision you are appealing. The SSA will review all the evidence you had when the decision was made, as well as any new evidence you receive.

In Michigan, the review will be available for appeals of applications from the 1 or October 2019. Before that date, if your application is denied, your appeal will go directly to an ALJ. In Michigan, reconsideration is only available if the SSA stopped your benefits, or if it says you received more money than is owed.

For most reconsiderations, you will not have to be present. However, it is best to request an in-person review in order to participate in the process. If you are appealing a decision that you are no longer eligible for disability benefits because your medical condition has improved, you can ask to meet with an SSA representative. During the meeting, you will be able to explain why you think you are still disabled.

To request a reconsideration, file your request with the SSA. Depending on the situation, you can use Form SSA-561 or Form SSA-789 to submit your application. You can file your appeal and additional documents through the SSA website, on the Disability Appeals page . You have a 60-day limit to submit your application. For more information on deadlines, see the section above, “Deadlines for filing an appeal”.

If you have questions about how to request a reconsideration, you can contact the SSA . An Appeals attorneys may also be able to help you. If you have a low income you may be eligible for free legal services. Regardless of your income, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find attorneys in your area. Unfortunately, this tool is only available in English. We hope to have a Spanish version available soon. 

If you are not eligible for free legal services and cannot afford high legal fees, you may want to hire an attorney to help you with parts of your case, rather than all of it. This is called limited scope representation (LSR). For more information, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A Cheaper Way to Hire an Attorney . 

To find a limited-scope attorney directly, you can:

  • Call the State Bar of Michigan Lawyer Referral Service and tell them that you are seeking limited-scope representation;
  • Go to the State Bar of Michigan Lawyer Search page . Enter the type of attorney you need (divorce, bankruptcy, etc.) and your city or county, and click ” Find a Lawyer “. Then scroll down to the box on the left side that says “ Don’t see the filter you need? Type in your own words ”(Don’t see the filter you need? Use your own words) and put” limited scope “; or
  • Do an internet search to find limited-scope representation attorneys in your area.