According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), only about 32% of people who applied for disability insurance in 2017 received it on the first time. When people with disabilities turn to the SSA for help, they may find they must fight for benefits.

When you receive a denial for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you may worry about how you will pay your bills. Without extra help, you may struggle to provide for your basic needs like food or shelter. But like many who apply for SSDI, you can use the appeal process to receive the benefits you need.

At the first stage, the SSA reconsiders the denial

When you appeal your SSDI denial, you have four stages. At the first level, you ask the SSA to reconsider their decision. You can send in any new information that you feel can strengthen your case. The SSA will assign a new person to review your entire application, including any documents you’ve attached.

At a hearing, you can ask a judge to overturn the decision

If the reconsideration upholds the denial, you can then request a hearing with an administrative law judge. You can bring witnesses to defend your need for disability benefits. The judge reviews your application and asks questions of any witnesses that are present.

The Appeals Council can review your case

After you go through the hearing, the judge may still agree with the denial. At this point, you can ask the Social Security Appeals Council to review your claim. They may agree to view your case or may send it back to an administrative law judge. They may also decide not to review it.

At the last stage, you can sue the SSA for benefits

Your final level of appeal is in federal court, where you can bring a lawsuit against the SSA. The federal judge will review your case and decide whether or not the SSA wrongly denied you disability benefits.

An appeal can bring you benefits after a denial

When an injury or illness prevents you from working, you may need SSDI benefits to supplement your income. But the first time you apply, you have a high chance of denial.

However, you four levels of appeals to ask the SSA or a judge to reconsider the decision. Like many applicants, you can still receive your benefits after an appeal.