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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Appeals Process

  • Published: 2011-08-29 : Author: Bieske & Associates, P.C.
  • Synopsis: SSI appeal levels depend on the appeal issue and are reconsideration administrative law judge hearing Appeals Council review and federal court.

Main Document

The four SSI appeal levels depend on the appeal issue and are reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing, Appeals Council review and federal court.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) aids people over 65, or who are blind or disabled, with need-based monetary benefits. If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies benefits to an applicant, or revokes a current recipient's benefits, there is a way to appeal these decisions. When appeals are requested, the SSA reviews the claims in their entirety and reverses incorrect decisions. The four levels of SSI appeals include reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing, Appeals Council review and federal court.


The goal of a reconsideration appeal is to allow a new set of eyes to review both old and new evidence, using three processes, to reconsider a decision. The case review process, which is typical for medical condition appeals, does not include any meetings. The informal conference process involves a face-to-face meeting where people can bring witnesses or representatives to support their cases. Formal conferences occur if the SSA alters or stops benefits and hinge on witness interviews. Letters are mailed with reconsideration decisions.

Administrative Law Judge Hearing

Administrative law judges conduct hearings when applicants appeal reconsideration decisions. The SSA often requests additional evidence before these hearings and people may review or add to their files at this time. During the hearings, the judges question the applicants and medical or other witnesses, so it is advantageous to attend in-person. People may bring representatives to the hearings or make other arrangements, like for video hearings. Applicants receive the judge's decisions and decision letters after the hearings.

Appeals Council Review

The SSA's Appeals Council reviews SSI denial decisions when applicants disagree with administrative law judge opinions. While the Appeals Council considers all requests, it may deny an appeal if it agrees with a hearing decision. If the Appeals Council accepts a request, it either reviews a case itself or refers it back to an administrative law judge. Whichever the case, applicants receive communications explaining the Appeals Council denial, decision or administrative law judge order so they can decide whether to again appeal their decisions.

Important Considerations

The final level of appeal after the Appeals Council decision is filing a lawsuit in a federal district court. Applicants must appeal the denial or revocation of any SSI benefits decision in writing within 60 days from the date of the decision letter, or they may lose their appeal rights. Timing is especially important for SSI benefit recipients, because if they appeal within 10 days of a decision letter, they may continue to receive payments while their appeals are pending. However, they must pay back ineligible funds for denied appeals.

If you recently applied for SSI benefits, but received a denial letter, or you were receiving SSI payments and these were revoked, you may appeal these decisions. While you can handle the appeals process yourself, you have the right to legal representation. Contact an experienced SSI and disability rights attorney in your area right away to discuss the best way to approach your unique SSI benefits appeal within the designated time frame.

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