If you have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you still have the right to make an appeal. In fact, you have the right to make several appeals, if necessary. While many applicants get approved based on their initial applications, many others receive benefits only after going through the appeals process. Remember, the process can take time, so do not give up.

There are time limitations on every step in the appeals process. In general, if you disagree with a decision, you will want to request the next level of appeal as soon as possible. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Reconsideration

If you disagree with the initial determination regarding your eligibility for benefits or if SSA changes your benefit amount and you disagree, you can appeal through reconsideration.

How: Request reconsideration by sending SSA a signed note with your Social Security number stating that you wish to appeal the decision. Or, complete Form SSA-561 (Request for Reconsideration) or Form SSA-789 (Disability Cessation Appeal).

When: Make the request within 60 days of the date you receive the written notice of initial determination. If you request reconsideration within 10 days, any payment being made to you will continue until a determination is made, provided your income and resources do not exceed SSA’s limits.

Reconsideration will take approximately 90 days to complete.

Step 2: Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing

If you disagree with the reconsideration determination, request a hearing before an ALJ. You may review your file, submit new evidence and present your own testimony at the hearing. The judge may also want you to have additional medical exams and tests completed.

Because these hearings are done in-person, it is important that you attend or you may lose your appeal rights and benefits. If you cannot make the hearing, contact the judge as soon as possible before the hearing and explain why.

How: Either write to SSA requesting an ALJ hearing or complete Form HA-501 (Request for Hearing).

When: Make the request within 60 days after you receive the notice of reconsideration.

An ALJ hearing will take approximately 15-18 months to complete.

Step 3: Appeals Council

If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you may request an Appeals Council review. The Appeals Council will select which cases it wishes to hear. You may also submit new evidence here.

How: Either write to SSA requesting an Appeals Council review or complete Form HA-520 (Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order).

When: Make the request within 60 days after you get the hearing decision.

An appeals council will take approximately six to nine months to complete.

Step 4: U.S. District Court

If you disagree with the Appeals Council, you may file a civil action with the U.S. District Court in your area.

The court will decide whether to overrule SSA’s decision by granting you benefits, or, more often, by sending your case back to the ALJ for reconsideration.

Federal court will take approximately 15-18 months to complete.

All necessary forms can be found at the SSA’s website.