The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides financial support for retired and disabled persons. It also provides survivor benefits—funds paid to the spouse or child of a deceased worker.

The SSA administers the social security  program using funds it collects from social security taxes. Funds are dispersed monthly to people who qualify and successfully apply to receive such funds.

What are the Types of Social Security Benefits?

  • Retirement benefits: Retirement benefits are a common disbursement from the SSA for those who retire after the minimum age. The funds you will receive from the SSA will depend on the income you earned over your lifetime.
  • Disability benefits: Disability benefits are also disbursed by the SSA to qualified workers. Your benefits will be approximately the same as you would have earned had you retired normally.
  • Supplemental Security Income: People who do not earn sufficient income over the course of their life can also gain financial assistance by applying for benefits from the SSA. Typically, these funds are provided to those who meet the minimum age requirement, and are disabled or blind.
  • Survivor's benefits: Further still, the SSA administers the payment of survivor’s benefits issued to the surviving family members of the qualified deceased worker.

Why Might I Be Denied SSA Benefits?

The reason you might be denied SSA benefits depends on the type of benefits for which you applied. For most benefits, it is because you did not meet the required age or did not pay sufficient social security taxes. As a surviving spouse, you can be denied benefits if you remarried before reaching the retirement age.

If you meet the eligible requirements to file for SSA benefits, whether as a surviving spouse, a disabled person, or the child of a deceased worker, you can be denied SSA benefits simply by failing to provide all the information on the application necessary for the SSA to make a determination as to your eligibility for benefits.

What Should I Do If I Believe I Have Been Wrongly Denied SSA Benefits?

You can always appeal your denial of SSA benefits through the four-step process provided by the SSA. Here is what you can expect.

  • Reconsideration: In essence, this is the first line in the appeal process where local social security officers will conduct a complete review your claim. The new officer will consider the original and any new evidence.
  • Administrative Law Hearing: If the local officers affirm the denial of your claim, an administrative judge will then independently review your claim. In the interest of providing a fair hearing, the hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge who had no part in the initial determination or the reconsideration of your case.
  • Social Security Appeals Council: Following the denial by the administrative judge, the Council will review your claim and issue a final ruling. The Council may decide to deny a request just based on whether the administrative decision was supported by the record below. Otherwise, it will decide to review your case or return it to the administrative law judge for further review.
  • File a Lawsuit in Federal Court: Even though the Council’s decision is final, this is not your final step in the process. You can ultimately sue the SSA in federal court if you want to challenge this outcome. This is the very last level in the appeals process and the court will review the evidence below from the previous proceedings

How Do I File a Civil Lawsuit in Federal Court?

You can file a lawsuit with the federal district court for the district where you live or where your principal place of business is located. Otherwise, you will have to file in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Expect a fee when you file your lawsuit. Your notice about filing an appeal will include information about sending copies of your complaint to the SSA. Learn more about the requirements for the appeals process in federal court on the SSA website. Note that you will have 60 days to file after you receive notice of the Appeals Council’s denial of your request for a review or after a negative review.

Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me Appeal My Case in Federal Court?

Being denied SSA benefits to which you believe you are entitled can be extremely frustrating. Do not miss your opportunity to appeal your denial of benefits and be sure to follow the appeals process exactly as outlined in the denial notice.

If you have gone through the appeals process and want to file a lawsuit in federal court, you should consult with a government attorney. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the federal court process and present your best argument for why you are entitled to benefits.