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Have You Been Denied Social Security Benefits?

Several months after applying for Social Security benefits, you will receive either a “Notice of Award,” indicating that your claim for benefits was granted, or a “Notice of Disapproved Claim,” indicating that your initial application for benefits has been denied. If you believe your claim for Social Security benefits was wrongfully denied, you have a right to appeal this denial.

If you would like to appeal your denial, you have sixty days to file an appeal by requesting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. This can be done using Form HA-501-U5 (Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge) or online at This sixty-day appeal period starts the day after you receive your Notice of Disapproved Claim, which Social Security assumes to be five days from the date printed on the letter. If you wait more than sixty days to file your appeal, Social Security requires that you demonstrate “good reason.” Social Security very rarely grants late appeals, so be sure to file your appeal within the sixty days.

Due to the complexity of the appeal hearing and process, it is highly recommended that you retain a local, Erie Social Security attorney to help you file your appeal and represent you at your hearing. Local, qualified attorneys can be found on our website using our Lawyer Information and Referral Service (LRIS). Social Security attorneys typically do not charge hourly and work on a “contingency” basis, which is highly regulated by the Social Security Administration and makes it possible for anybody to afford an attorney, regardless of their income or assets.

Unlike your initial application, after you file your appeal, your case will be transferred to your regional Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), where you will have the opportunity to gather and submit evidence before your hearing. During this time, it can take over one year before your hearing is scheduled before a judge where your hearing will either be by video or will be done in person.

Your hearing will last approximately one hour, although it can be longer or shorter depending upon your circumstances. It is important to meet with your lawyer before this hearing, as you will need to be prepared to answer questions about your disability, your activities of daily living, your past work history, and your ability to perform other work-related duties. There will also be an impartial vocational expert present at this hearing. The judge will ask this expert questions about available jobs in the national economy given different sets of hypothetical restrictions. Your attorney will be given the opportunity to cross-examine this expert to help eliminate available jobs and increase your chances of being granted benefits.

Several weeks to several months after your hearing, you will receive a “Notice of Decision” from the ALJ, which will either be “Fully Favorable,” “Partially Favorable,” or “Unfavorable.” If you disagree with the Judge’s Decision, you have the option of filing an appeal by writing to the Appeals Council in accordance with the instructions accompanying the decision. This must be done within sixty days and cannot be done online—it must be done by mail and should be done using Form HA-520 (Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order). We highly recommend this appeal be sent via certified mail to document the date your date of mailing and to ensure it is received. Again, this sixty-day appeal period starts the day after you receive our Notice of Disapproved Claim, which Social Security assumes to be five days from the date printed on the Decision.

Your case will then be sent to the Appeals Council of the Office of Hearings and Appeals in Falls Church, Virginia. This process can take over eighteen months. If the Appeals Council still denies your request for review, you may appeal to the Federal Court system by filing a civil action in the United State District Court within sixty days from that date that you received a denial of your request for review or final decision from the Appeals Council. 12/15


If you need to consult with an attorney on denial of social security benefits, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service.