Workers make contributions to the Social Security Administration (SSA) from their income. The funds that they submit to the SSA help fund programs that provide both disability benefits and retirement support for older adults who have worked enough to qualify. They also allow individual workers to accrue credits for their contributions that allow them to claim benefits later when they need them.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits offer a form of financial support for those who find themselves unable to work due to medical issues while they’re still too young to actually retire. Many people who apply for SSDI receive rejection letters instead of approval notices.

Appealing an unfavorable decision could help someone get benefits and possibly even back pay if they have to wait quite some time during the appeals process. What can an applicant in need of SSDI benefits expect during an appeal?

The first stage is an internal process

When an applicant requests an appeal, they may submit corrected paperwork or additional medical records to the SSA. At that point, someone other than the worker who initially reviewed the application will look at the paperwork and medical documentation. Sometimes, a person’s biases based on their work history or personal life will influence how they respond to people with certain medical conditions or even certain names. The reconsideration process may result in an approval of benefits and could also be unsuccessful.

After reconsideration comes a hearing

The second stage of appeal is often what people talk about when discussing SSDI appeals. Applicants have the right to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Applicants often wait multiple months before their hearings, and they can use that time to undergo medical testing or to connect with expert support to help them during their appeals hearing. If the hearing is not successful, those appealing a decision can take the matter to the Appeals Council or even go to the federal district courts. Those who successfully appeal will receive future benefits and possibly a lump sum payment for the benefits they would have received if the SSA approved their application initially.

Pursuing an appeal after a rejected SSDI benefits application may help someone who is struggling with a disabling medical condition to move forward in a more financially stable position. Seeking legal guidance is widely recommended, as so few applicants are able to secure their benefits successfully on appeal without assistance.