Few things in life can be as devastating as becoming disabled and finding yourself unable to work for a living. Fear sets in quickly as you wonder exactly how you are going to pay your bills, buy food, and live as normal a life as possible. Thankfully, there is a lifeline that exists that can help…social security disability benefits.

Social Security disability benefits can help you make ends meet if you become disabled. While they won’t provide you the full income you may have been used to, if you have a history of being employed and had been paying into social security with each paycheck, you very well hold social security disability eligibility.

If your situation is eligible, then you can apply for social security disability benefits. This can be done by contacting the social security office online, in person, by mail or by phone. The application and approval process can take some time, so it is recommended that you apply for the benefits as soon as possible after you have become disabled. Even if you believe you qualify, in some cases, such requests for benefits are denied. This is where you must be aware of your rights as they pertain to the appeals process.

Appealing a denied request for social security disability benefits can be a 4-step process depending on if your request gets denied multiple times. The stages of appeal are as follows:

  1. Reconsideration – upon your first denial, you can apply for what is known as reconsideration. This will allow your application to be reviewed again to ensure nothing was missed and that no mistakes were made. You are also eligible to present new information at this time if you believe if will help your case.
  2. Administrative law judge hearing – if, after the reconsideration process you are still denied, you can have your case heard by an administrative law judge who will review the application and hear your case directly from you. If your benefits are still denied, then you have the right to take your case to step 3.
  3. Appeal council review – The social security appeal council is an oversight committee that will review your application and all the facts presented in the administrative law judge hearing to decide if you are indeed eligible for social security disability benefits. If you are still denied, you have one more avenue available to you.
  4. Federal district court-If all else fails, you still have the right to file a case to be heard in the federal district court.

As you might imagine, navigating through these steps can be a tricky undertaking, especially when dealing with a disability. It is recommended to secure legal counsel if you believe you are eligible for social security disability benefits but have been denied. A law firm that has experience in dealing with such claims can help walk you through the process, gather needed facts and information to present your case, and argue on your behalf to help you have the best possible chances of securing the social security disability benefits you deserve.