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Levels of Appeals in a Florida Social Security Disability Claim

Did you file for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and receive a denial? Don’t despair as you aren’t alone. Many applicants’ claims are denied on their initial application and may need to file an appeal. In fact, around 70% of SSD and SSI claims are denied upon first application. This situation is where retaining an experienced Orlando Social Security Disability lawyer can help. It’s best if you hire an attorney before filing your initial application, but it’s not too late if you receive a denial.

At the Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, P.A., we have extensive experience working on Social Security Disability appeals. We know why most claims are initially denied and how to fix the most common mistakes applicants make. If you receive a denial, it’s crucial you don’t wait to contact an attorney as you only have a limited amount of time to appeal. Here’s an introduction to the appeals process for Social Security Disability benefits applications. Be advised the process can vary slightly by state.

Initial Application

Your initial application will require you to send in paperwork detailing your disability paperwork that explains your condition(s) and what medical treatment you’ve had. Your application goes to the appropriate office for the Social Security Administration (SSA) for review. If your claim is denied, you will receive notice that tells you how long you have to appeal. Usually, you only have 60 days, so it’s crucial to act fast.


If you send an appeal back in, you are essentially asking them to reconsider your case. If it’s denied again, you could have as long as 60 more days to appeal.

Hearing Level

Once your claim has been rejected for reconsideration, applicable Social Security laws say you can request a hearing. Your case will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge, known as an ALJ, who will be the one hearing your case. They are not obligated to consider any prior decisions. You definitely want an attorney to help with this phase of your case. You must have all your documentation submitted before the cut-off as it’s challenging to get any evidence added to your record afterward. After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a written decision but be advised the wait time can be extensive. If the ALJ rejects your claim, you could have between 30 to 60 days to file an appeal to the Appeals Council.

Appeals Council

The Appeals Council will review ALJ decisions. They usually only consider the original file, but in rare cases, they may accept new evidence. This phase is also a lengthy process, so don’t expect a decision right away. The Appeals Council could reverse the ALJ decision and issue a favorable decision, remand your case back to the ALJ, or they may deny your Request for Review, making the ALJ decision final. If that happens, you can appeal at the Federal Court level.

Federal Review

The federal court’s powers are limited in these cases. They will only overturn the earlier decision if they find there was an error of law or the decision was not based on the submitted evidence. The usual outcome is to uphold the prior decision or send it back for a new hearing.

Court of Appeals

Finally, you have the Court of Appeals if your case is denied at a District Court level. Most cases will never make it to this level, and if they do, the usual result is a denial. You don’t want to leave your claim to chance by going through all these potential appeals; that’s why hiring an attorney early on is essential.

Contact an Orlando Social Security Disability Attorney

If you need assistance with a Social Security Disability claim, contact the Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, P.A. today to schedule an initial consultation.


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