Suddenly, an injury or condition changes your life. You are not able to work. You decide to apply for Social Security Disability, a government program that provides financial assistance to people with medical limitations that make them unemployable.

At last, the determination letter arrives. You open it, expecting to learn the amount of your support payment. Instead, you find a letter stating that the Social Security Administration has denied your claim. Now what?

File an appeal

You can seek reversal of the turndown by filing an appeal. Be sure you know the deadline. Strict and short time limits apply. Start the process right away. Read the notice of denial carefully. Follow all instructions and know all the rules.

To qualify for SSD, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You have a serious injury or illness
  • The medical problem prevents you from doing your job
  • You are not medically fit to do other work
  • Doctors say you will not be able to work for at least a year, or maybe never

The denial letter you receive will list the sources, including medical records, used to evaluate your claim. A good appeal may consist of offering more or better evidence of your disability.

Move to the next appeal level

The appeals system includes four levels of appeal. You may request a second review by a different person at the local office. Next comes a hearing by an administrative law judge. A higher council can overrule the first judge. A federal court can reverse them all.

The process can take months or years. However, often a successful result includes back payments in a lump sum, plus continuing support for as long as the disability lasts.

Do not give up

Take that denial as a challenge to show you deserve the benefits. A victorious appeal can have a huge effect on your future.