Filing for disability benefits is one thing and getting it is quite another. The government is ordinarily quite willing to let you have the benefit but at times it happens that you think you are entitled to the benefits but the authorities think otherwise.
So, where to go? Do you need to file for reconsideration?
If the reconsideration application is rejected, go in for a formal appeal before the Administrative Law Judge.
Your case will be given a thorough and independent examination here. And you'll be given a full hearing with every chance to present your case in detail. An expert may also be called to give his opinion on the status of the claimant's disability.
If your case is rejected here the next appeal lies before the National Appeals Council, which is headquartered in Washington. This is an independent review of the ALJ's decision. The appeals council does not conduct a hearing.
If the Council also concur with the decisions of the earlier forum and rejects your appeal, you may institute a lawsuit in the federal court.
This is part of a formal civil litigation and by filing a lawsuit you put in motion the judicial machinery of the state. The lawsuit will be contended by the authorities through a lawyer and it is advisable that you too hire one so that you do not suffer due to inadequate representation before the federal court.
In case the federal court decides against you, you may approach the federal appeals court against the decision. If the appeal fails, the only option you are left with is the Supreme Court, which is the apex judicial body.
It is not mandatory for one to hire a lawyer to represent one at any stage. However, if your initial appeals have not found favor with the authorities while you feel that your case has merit, it is better that you let a competent lawyer file a lawsuit for you so as to make sure that no legal point in your favor escapes the notice of the judge.
If you do not hire a lawyer before reaching the stage when you have to approach the Supreme Court, it would make things difficult for you because the apex court is unlikely to allow a fresh legal contention that was not raised before any of the earlier appeals.
It is, therefore, advisable that you get yourself a lawyer the moment you decide to set the judicial machinery of the state in motion.