Every review stage of the Social Security Disability (SSD) application and appeals process has different guidelines for checking the status of a claim. Each step is governed by a different entity as well, which can make it difficult to know just what to do. The following steps help you understand the process and whom you should contact for updates.
Step One – Initial Application
After you submit your initial application for SSD benefits, you will want to check on your claim at regular intervals. This lets you know quickly if your claim is stalled for any reason. It also allows you to address any needs for further documentation or evidence quickly.
At the initial application stage, you can check the status of your claim by:
- calling your local SSA office
- contacting the disability examiner that has been assigned to your case
- checking your claim status online, if you originally applied for benefit online through the SSA’s website.
Once your disability claim is forwarded to Disability Determination Services (DDS), a claims examiner will be assigned. You should get a phone call and receive paperwork when this happens. If you do not know who your disability examiner is, contact your local SSA office for further information.
Step Two – Reconsideration of Claim
In most states, the first step in appealing a denied disability claim is to request a reconsideration. After you have submitted reconsideration request forms, you can check the status of your claim by contacting your local SSA office or the disability examiner assigned to your case.
Step Three – Appeal Hearing
Appealing a denied claim requires you request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). After submitting the required appeal forms, you can check the status of your claim and your appeal hearing schedule by calling:
- your local SSA office or claims examiner, if your file has not been transferred to the appeals office yet
- the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), if your file has already been sent on for review and for hearing scheduling.
Once your hearing date is set, you will receive a notice in the mail, including the hearing arrangements and contact information. Any future inquires should be directed to the contact listed on the notice you receive.
Step Four – Appeals Council Review
Most disability claims end at the ALJ hearing level. Most applicants either:
- receive benefits when the judge finds them eligible
- stop trying to get SSD after the ALJ denies the claim.
If you request an Appeal Council Review of the ALJ’s decision, the SSA strongly recommends you have representation. Most applicants hire an attorney or get the help of a Social Security advocate at this stage, if they have not already.
Your representative can check the status of your claim, or you can make inquiries yourself. To verify the Appeals Council has received your request or to check the status of your claim, call 1-703-605-8000.
Step Five – Federal Court Appeal
The last step in the appeals process if a civil lawsuit, filed against the SSA in federal court. This step requires an attorney and he or she will keep you up to date on the status of your lawsuit. You will deal directly with your legal counsel throughout the law suit.
Checking in periodically on the status of your claim not only alleviates uncertainty, but it also allows you to intervene if necessary. For example, if the application is in a holding pattern while the SSA waits for medical records from a particular doctor, then you can contact the doctor’s office to spur them to action. Likewise, if the claim has stalled due to documentation that was lost by the local SSA office, you need to know sooner rather than later.
This guide gives you the information necessary to check your claim at each stage of the application and appeals process. Keep in mind that if you are unsure where to start or with whom you should speak, you call your local SSA office or you can ask a question in our forum here.