How to File a Request for Reconsideration to Social Security

By Jonathan Peterson

Copyright © 2015 AARP

If the Social Security Administration denies your claim, you’ll receive in the mail a notice of denial, which also informs you that you have a right to appeal. Ask yourself: Did someone make a mistake in reviewing your application? Does it make sense to challenge the decision? If so, what’s the next step?

You have 60 days from when you receive the notice to tell the SSA that you want to appeal the decision. (You get five extra days for mailing time.) Don’t miss the deadline.

If you decide to appeal the decision, you enter the first step of the appeals process, which is called a request for reconsideration. If you request it, a different evaluator from the state Disability Determination Service takes a look at the file. You may think of this as a “paper” review — it doesn’t include your personal appearance or oral argument by an attorney.

Critics call this stage of the appeals process a “rubber stamp” of the initial decision, because the vast majority of these appeals — approaching 90 percent in recent years — are turned down. But if you believe in your case and hope to get a hearing before an administrative law judge, you must first file a request for reconsideration.

You may benefit from expert guidance as you navigate the appeals process. A trained advocate, such as a lawyer or a non‐lawyer who specializes in SSDI issues, should have a clear idea of whether you have a reasonable case to pursue and the sort of evidence that you will need.

Deciding whether to file a request for reconsideration

Should you file for reconsideration? Start by asking yourself the most basic question of all: Are you disabled?

The appeals process is the same whether you were turned down for SSDI or other benefits. Much of the following information focuses on SSDI because it raises particular issues that often result in dispute.

The SSA follows a five‐step process in determining whether you qualify for SSDI benefits. The SSA wants to know several things about you:

  • Are you still able to earn a substantial amount of money from employment? The SSA periodically revises the level it considers substantial. (In 2015, it was $1,090 per month for the non‐blind and $1,820 for the blind.) Earnings above that level are likely to disqualify you.

  • Do you have a severe condition that is likely to last for at least a year or end in death? The condition can be physical, mental, or some combination of the two.

  • Is your condition included on the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments”? Your condition doesn’t have to be on the list for you to qualify for benefits.

  • Can you still do your job or similar work? The SSA may go back 15 years in deciding whether you’re capable of doing work you’re familiar with. So, even if you’re not able to do your current job, if you’re still able to do a job you had much earlier in life, you may not qualify for SSDI benefits.

  • Can you do any other jobs that exist in large numbers in the national economy? The younger you are, the more the SSA expects you to find a new line of work that is compatible with limitations rather than get benefits. Applicants older than 50 have a better chance of qualifying for SSDI benefits than those who are younger; chances for approval increase with age.

You can educate yourself on qualifying for SSDI benefits by reading the information that the SSA puts out on the subject.

Taking the steps to file

You can file a request for reconsideration by filling out http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityssi/appeal.html or ssa.gov and clicking Online Services and then “Appeal a decision”).

The SSA has a separate form if your issue involves the cutoff of benefits. If benefits are being stopped, the form you need is If you get a notice that the SSA is cutting off benefits, you have only ten days to submit a written request that benefits continue while you appeal.

The request for reconsideration form gives you just three lines to state the reasons you’re requesting a review. You don’t need to prove your whole case on this form. What matters is that, in the course of your appeal, you provide the SSA with all the background information it needs to consider your application, including detailed evidence about your medical treatments, along with your work history.

As part of your request for reconsideration, you also should file a new report on your disability and an authorization for the individual who will represent you so he or she can see your file and talk about your case with the SSA. You may fill out forms authorizing other individuals, such as healthcare providers, to disclose information about you to the SSA. You can get the Disability Report; and the form requesting disclosure of your personal information at ssa.gov.

If you mail your request for reconsideration form, send it by certified mail so you have a receipt. If you hand‐deliver the form to your local SSA field office, ask for a receipt.

Stay organized at every step of the appeals process. Keep photocopies and other records to help you keep track of what you’ve sent.

Requests for reconsideration are often decided within four months, give or take. The sooner you file your request, the more you can keep the process moving forward. This is important for a couple of reasons:

  • The longer it takes to reach a decision, the more you risk losing back benefits.

  • Requests for reconsideration usually lose. So, if you believe in your claim, and you want to press on, you want to get to the next stage — a hearing before an administrative law judge — as soon as you can.