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Disability application process

7 Tips on How to Win a Disability Reconsideration

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
March 29, 2023  ·  6 min read
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Reconsiderations are part of the process for most people who apply for disability. If your application is denied, you can appeal the denial by filing for a reconsideration. You’ll submit additional paperwork and medical records to prove to the SSA your condition is as severe as you’re claiming it is.

Most reconsiderations still end in a denial, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances.

Overturn your denial with the help of a disability lawyer.

How SSI and SSDI reconsiderations work

Most people who apply for Social Security disability benefits are rejected the first time around. If your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision by requesting a reconsideration.

By filing for reconsideration, you’re asking the SSA to look at your application again and reconsider their decision. If they change their mind, you’ll start getting disability benefits. If they deny your case again, you can appeal again and move on to a disability hearing.

While there are steps you can take to strengthen your application, SSA data from 2022 shows that about 90% of reconsiderations are denied. It’s pretty likely that your case will proceed to a hearing. On average, the reconsideration process takes about six months from the time you file until you hear the SSA’s decision.

7 tips to help with your SSDI reconsideration

Filing for reconsideration? Use these tips as you build your case to give yourself the best chance of getting the disability benefits you need:

  1. Understand what kind of denial you received

  2. File your reconsideration request on time

  3. Don’t forget these three reconsideration forms

  4. Fill out an appeals letter

  5. Provide new medical documentation

  6. Get a letter from your doctor

  7. Get a disability lawyer

1. Understand what kind of denial you received

There are two types of disability denials from the SSA — medical and technical.

A medical denial is most common. If you’ve received this kind of denial, the SSA doesn’t think your medical condition qualifies you for disability benefits. You should almost always appeal, which starts with asking for a reconsideration and submitting new or more recent medical documents. Medical denials offer a higher chance that your appeal will be successful, though you’ll probably still need to appeal to a hearing.

Technical denials are more difficult to overturn, though you can still appeal them. A technical denial means the SSA determined that you simply don’t meet the eligibility requirements for disability benefits. Unless you can prove the income or work history details that the SSA has for you are wrong, you won’t be able to win a reconsideration of a technical denial. Log in to your mySocialSecurity account to check or correct your work history with the SSA.

Learn more about the technical requirements for SSDI or SSI.

2. File your reconsideration request on time

If you decide to ask for a reconsideration, you’ll need to file within 60 days of the date on your SSA denial letter. Otherwise, you will have to start a completely new disability application and go through the process again. (Technically the 60-day clock starts five days after your denial date to give time for mailing, but we do not recommend counting on those extra days.)

Another way you can help speed your reconsideration along is to be responsive and available. If the SSA reaches out to ask for any additional medical records or information, respond as quickly as possible. You usually have 10 days but responding faster limits processing delays.

3. Don’t forget these three reconsideration forms

To properly file for reconsideration, you’ll need to submit some paperwork. Your easiest option is to fill out these forms online. If you prefer, you can also print them, fill them out by hand, and either take them in person or mail them to your local SSA office.

Here are the three specific forms the SSA requires:

  • Form SSA-561, Request for Reconsideration. This four-page form simply states that you would like to appeal the decision of your claim.

  • Form SSA-3441, Disability Report — Appeal. The appeal form asks for any new or updated information about your medical conditions.

  • Form SSA-827, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration. The third form you’ll need gives your doctors permission to share your medical information with the SSA.

4. Fill out an appeals letter

Another piece of paperwork you’ll need is an appeals letter. Essentially, this is a detailed explanation of why you’re filing for reconsideration.

You’ll see a question on the Form SSA-561 that says, “I do not agree with the SSA’s determination and request reconsideration. My reasons are.” To answer the question, write “see attached letter.” Then add your response on a separate page.

The appeals letter isn’t required but it’s important because you want to take every opportunity you can to explain your situation. An appeals letter lets you directly respond to anything the SSA may have seen in your initial application that caused their denial. At the very least, you can explain differently why your health conditions are severe enough to keep you from working.

If you have a disability lawyer, they can give you an idea of what to say in your appeals letter. In general, follow these five points:

  • Be honest.

  • Be specific.

  • Be thorough.

  • Keep your answers consistent across all forms.

  • Stick close to work-related information.

For more detailed advice, see our guide to answering SSA application questions.

5. Provide new medical documentation

If you receive a medical denial, your medical evidence wasn’t strong enough to “prove” to the SSA that you qualify for disability. The best way to strengthen your case by providing additional evidence.

Submit any medical documentation that you didn’t send the first time. If you have recent paperwork — especially anything from the past 90 days — you should inclue these with your request.

When the SSA reviews your information, they’ll be looking for two things:

  • Proof that your condition makes you too sick or injured to work

  • Proof that you’ll be unable to work for at least one year because of your condition

Everything you submit should support these two claims. You can reference the Blue Book to understand what conditions qualify and how the SSA will evaluate your conditions. A disability lawyer will also help you figure out what medical evidence will help your case the most.

6. Get a letter from your doctor

A letter from your doctor (like a medical source statement) is an additional way to strengthen your case and prove to the SSA you’re actually as sick as you say you are.

A residual functional capacity assessment is a helpful piece of paperwork to submit. This assessment asks your doctor for their opinion on your ability to stand, sit, carry, lift, communicate, and perform other actions that are necessary to hold a job.

It’s especially important to get this letter if something has changed with your condition. For example, maybe you have new symptoms or symptoms that are more severe. And if you did a consultative exam with an SSA doctor that wasn’t helpful, your own doctor’s assessment is a good way to show the severity of your condition.

7. Get a disability lawyer

Our final recommendation for your SSDI appeal is to get a disability lawyer. This is the most important step you can take for your reconsideration. A good lawyer will be able to walk you through all of the other steps mentioned here. They can help you understand your denial, fill out the paperwork to file for a reconsideration, and gather additional medical documents or letters you might need.

If your reconsideration is denied, a lawyer can help you appeal again and then prepare for a hearing. You’ll have a much better chance of winning the benefits with a lawyer’s expertise. Applicants with lawyers are three times more likely to win a hearing.

Atticus can match you for free with a vetted, experienced disability lawyer who can provide the support you need. Take our Social Security disability quiz to get started. If we do match you with a lawyer, you’ll never need to pay the lawyer until after win benefits.

Get personalized advice on your appeal. Talk with our team today.
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Frequently asked questions about reconsiderations

Is a reconsideration the same for SSI and SSDI?

The reconsideration process is the same whether you’re applying for SSDI or SSI, but the SSA will consider different technical requirements for each program — income and assets for SSI but work and tax history for SSDI.

What are my chances of winning SSDI at reconsideration?

Based on recent SSA data, only about 10% of reconsiderations get approved. However, you can appeal again and the next stage, a disability hearing in front of a judge, offers a higher chance of success than any other appeal stage.

What happens if my SSDI reconsideration is approved?

If your SSI or SSDI reconsideration is approved, you’ll begin receiving benefits soon. Your first check will likely include months of back pay.

How long does an SSDI reconsideration take?

As of the start of 2023, the average SSI and SSDI reconsideration takes 6.1 months (183 days) from the time you file your request until you receive a decision. Read more on how long a disability appeal takes.

Can a lawyer help at the reconsideration stage?

Yes, a disability lawyer can help strengthen your claim at the reconsideration stage if you received a medical denial. Reversing a technical denial is much harder and a lawyer may not be able to help you as much, though they can still offer advice on the best way to proceed.

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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