What are the four stages in a disability appeal process

What are the four stages in a disability appeal process

You are allowed to appeal a decision made by Social Security disability after all the levels of decisions. There are four stages to the appeal process — reconsideration, hearing, council, and court. Below is a breakdown of the levels and how they work.


The first level of appeals is the request in reconsideration for your disability claim. This process needs to be done no later than 60 days from the day you received a denial to your claim. Though, this step is available in most states, there are some which this step isn’t an option:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

If you do go through with the reconsideration process, another examiner from Social Security will review your case and come to a decision.

ALJ Hearing

The second appeal in the 4 stage process is the hearing that is in front of an administrative law judge — also known as an ALJ. This hearing can be requested after your case has been denied, but must also be done within 60 days of the examiners denial. This stage has the highest chance of your case being accepted because a judge can look into your application and have an in-person meeting with you where you can plead your disability case. Unfortunately, this can be a long process, so your new decision may take some time.

Appeals Council

Appeals Council is the third stage in the appeal process. During this stage, a judge’s decision can be reviewed based on if there were any errors made, information that was overlooked, or medical evidence that wasn’t considered during the first time. There are numerous options can happen during this stage, such as:

  • Having a judge’s decision reverse and receiving an approval for your claim
  • A case being remanded
  • Having your claim denied again

Federal Court

The last level of the 4 stage process to appeal your disability claim is to file a federal court date. This option can be used in a case when it is denied by an Appeals Council. These federal hearings are hearings without juries. The judge will review the disability case for any errors and will also rule on factual questions. If you do not already have a disability attorney, not is the time to hire one.

When preparing for any stage in this appeal process, it is important to prepare all of your medical documents and any other evidence that will help your case get approved. This will increase your chances of your disability benefits being granted and also will take less time if you are prepared and organized.