The disability benefits of the federal Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, program provide funds to workers who are no longer able to earn a living due to a serious, persistent medical condition. The application process can be lengthy and requires detailed documentation from your doctor. If your claim is denied, this doesn't necessarily mean you are barred from obtaining disability benefits. Sometimes claims are denied simply because they aren't properly documented. There is also a detailed appeals process.
Complete the SII Request for Reconsideration form, which is available at the Social Security Administration website (see Resources), and submit it to your local Social Security Office. On the form, you can request a case review by the same person (if you have provided additional documentation), or a formal or informal conference in which you meet in person with the people deciding your case.
Request an administrative law judge hearing via the Internet. Follow the link in the Resources section to request an appeal of the decision in your case. This can only occur after you've completed step one and have still been denied. You'll also have to submit an Appeal Disability Report about your condition.
Request in writing a review by the Appeals Council if your appeal is denied. (Resources section offers a link.) The Appeals Council consists of more than 40 administrative appeals judges, 50 appeals officers and hundreds of support personnel. Located in Falls Church, Virginia, the Appeals Council reviews tens of thousands of cases annually and makes the final administrative decision within the Social Security Administration (SSA).
File a lawsuit. If your claim is still denied and you have exhausted the administrative appeals process described above, you can hire an attorney to file a lawsuit in U.S. district court.
Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.