According to studies, one in four workers will experience a disability that prevents them from working by the time they reach retirement. While disabilities may not be uncommon for workers, the process for applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be extremely frustrating and time consuming.

SSDI applications have a notoriously high rejection rate. Well over half of qualified SSDI claims are denied the first time. However, just because your application gets denied does not mean that you have no hope of receiving benefits or that you need to start the process from scratch.

The appeals process

Because so many SSDI applications are initially rejected, going through the appeals process is one of the most common ways for people to receive their benefits. However, you only have 60 days after a rejection to file an appeal before you must start the application process from the beginning. There are four different levels of appeals:

1. Reconsideration

Reconsideration is the first step of an appeals process. For this appeal, you basically resubmit your application with any additional clarifying evidence to help your case.

A new SSA official who had nothing to do with the first decision will look over your application.

2. Hearing by an administrative law judge

If the decision that the SSA reaches during your reconsideration is not to your liking, you may request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. A judge, who was not involved in previous decisions in your case, will hold the hearing within 75 miles of your home.

This process gives you the chance to present your case in person and can be one of the most effective ways to appeal an unfavorable decision.

3. Appeals Council review

If the administrative law judge makes a decision on your case that you do not agree with, you may file for a review of the decision with the Appeals Council. However, the Appeals Council may deny your request if they believe that social security laws and regulations support the existing decision.

4. Federal Court review

Your final option to appeal a decision on your SSDI case comes at the federal level. If the Appeals Council doesn’t hear your case, or rules against you, you may file a civil suit in a federal district court.

With all these processes, it can be extremely frustrating to attain your SSDI. If you are struggling with the process, understand that the appeals process is a very common road for people to obtain their benefits. You may consult a lawyer to help you prepare your case, as studies show that representation statistically improves the chances of an application’s acceptance.