If you are suffering with an illness or injury that keeps you from working in Georgia, it can be difficult to understand why the Social Security Administration (SSA) would deny your application for benefits. Unfortunately, as the millions of Americans whose applications were rejected will tell you, the SSA has very strict criteria for awarding Social Security disability benefits, and it can be very difficult to get approved. However, do not assume that the SSA’s denial of your benefits claim is the end of the road. If you do not agree with the SSA’s decision, you have the right to appeal through the SSA’s four-step appeals process.

The first step to appealing a disability benefits claim decision is to request an appeal within 60 days of the date you receive the letter informing you of the SSA’s decision. The best way to do this is to go online and file your request online. If you have additional evidence to support your case, such as additional medical records or other documentation, you can provide those documents electronically.

Once you have filed your request, a reconsideration of your claim will take place. An employee of the SSA that did not review your case initially will thoroughly review your claim, considering old and new evidence. The reviewer will make their decision, and if you still disagree, you may move to the second step of the appeals process and request a hearing. During the hearing, an administrative law judge not involved in the original decision or reconsideration will question you and any witnesses you have. In some cases, you will not have to attend the hearing, but it may be to your advantage to attend with your attorney. After reviewing your testimony and all the evidence, the judge will make his or her decision.

If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you may move to step three and request a review by Social Security’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council may deny your request if they find that the judge’s decision during the hearing was correct. If they decide to approve your request, they may review your case themselves or return it to a judge for additional review. Finally, if you disagree with the Appeals Council decision to not review your case or disagree with their review, you can go to step four and file a claim in federal district court. The appeals process can be complicated, but an attorney can provide assistance during each stage of the process.