You probably waited a long time – there is a months-long backlog – for a determination about your Social Security benefits. And much to your surprise, your claim was denied.

What are you going to do now? You were relying on that assistance to help you pay for your everyday living expenses and your medicines now that you can’t work.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has an appeals process for residents of Indiana and across the country who believe they were wrongly denied benefits.

The agency has put in place four levels for an appeal. They are: requesting reconsideration, a hearing, a review by an appeals council and a review by a federal court.

What is the difference?

Reconsideration: This is the starting level. Another evaluator will look at your request for reconsideration, review the documents submitted and accept any new evidence you might have. If the reconsideration upholds the initial decision, you move on to the next step

Hearing: Your next appeal sends your case to a hearing. You will state your case in front of an administrative law judge. You may take witnesses to the hearing, if you’d like. The judge will make a decision on your appeal based on all the information presented.

Review by the Social Security Appeals Council: This body either can make a decision or send your file back to the judge for an additional review.

Review in federal district court. This is the last step.

The appeals process is long and stressful. By working with an attorney from the outside, you could have better odds of being granted approval on first review. An attorney experienced in such cases knows exactly what documents are required and what Social Security is looking for.