Key Takeaways

  • The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides cash payments to people with limited income who are 65 and older or blind or disabled.

  • If you’ve been denied SSI benefits, you can file an appeal with the Social Security Administration (SSA), which manages the program.

  • The SSI denial appeal process gives you four chances to challenge the SSA’s decision on your claim.

It can be disappointing to learn that your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim has been denied. But that may not be the last word. The SSI appeals process gives you four chances to have your claim reviewed and, possibly, approved.

“You can appeal most determinations and decisions we make about whether you can get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or if we make changes to your benefit amount,” the Social Security Administration (SSA) explains on its website.1

Learning more about SSI benefits and how to file an SSI appeal may help improve your chances of getting monthly income that can help you pay for food, housing, and other expenses.

“You should always appeal your SSI denial, because it is worth your time to receive this needed benefit,” said Darren Hotton, NCOA's Associate Director of Community Health and Benefits.

What is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?

SSI is a financial safety-net program for people with very little income and resources who are 65 and older or blind or disabled. In October 2023, approximately 7.5 million people received monthly benefits; 2.4 million of those recipients were 65 or older.2 Benefit amounts vary, but the maximum monthly SSI payment for 2024 is $943 for one person and $1,415 for a couple.3 You can learn more about qualifying for SSI benefits in our article, Who Is Eligible for Supplemental Security Income?

How do I apply for SSI benefits?

You apply for SSI through the Social Security Administration (SSA), which manages the program. To get started applying for benefits, you request an appointment online. After you complete the online process, an SSA representative will contact you to make an appointment to help you apply.

You can always call the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) for more information, help, or to check the status of an application or a later appeal. Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you think you qualify for benefits, you should apply right away since it can take several months for the SSA to process your application.

How will I know if my SSI benefits claim is approved or denied?

The SSA will send you a letter with its decision, or what the agency calls its “initial determination(s).” If you disagree with this decision, you can begin the SSI denial appeal process. You have 60 days after receiving the letter to file an SSI appeal.

Why would my SSI claim be denied?

For people 65 or older, the SSA bases eligibility on strict guidelines for how much income you have and how many resources you own. There are also citizenship requirements for anyone applying for SSI. After reviewing your initial claim for benefits, the SSA may determine you don’t meet one or more of the requirements and will deny your application. You can get more details on all aspects of SSI eligibility by visiting the SSA’s Understanding SSI.

What are the steps of the SSI denial appeal process?

There are four levels of appeal. If your appeal is denied at one level, you can move to the next. You must file each new appeal within 60 days of receiving your determination letter from the SSA.

Here are the appeal levels:

1. Reconsideration

At this first level of appeal, your claim will get a full review by someone who wasn’t involved in the initial decision. You’ll have the chance to provide more information to support your request for benefits. When you complete the SSI reconsideration appeal form, you’ll be asked to list the reasons why you disagree with the SSA’s decision. You’ll also choose one of these appeal options:4

  • Case Review: “You can give us more facts to add to your file. Then we will decide your case again. You do not meet with the person who decides your case,” the SSA explains.
  • Informal Conference: “You will meet with a person who will decide your case. You can tell that person why you think you are right. You can give us more facts to help prove that you are right. You can bring other people to help explain your case.”

How to file for an SSI reconsideration appeal: You can submit your appeal request online. You can also mail or fax Form SSA-561  to your local Social Security office.

2. Administrative Law Judge Hearing

You can request a hearing before an administrative law judge if the SSA denies your SSI reconsideration appeal. Hearings are conducted over the phone, in person, or via video conference. The judge will ask why you requested a hearing and may ask for more documentation or what the SSA calls “evidence.”5

You can request a hearing online. Or you can complete Form HA-501 and mail or fax it to the nearest Social Security office.

3. Appeals Council Review

If your SSI hearing appeal is denied, you can ask the SSA’s Appeals Council to review the judge’s decision.

“If our Appeals Council agrees with the judge's decision, they'll deny your request,” the SSA explains. “If they decide to review your case, they'll make a decision or return it to a judge for further review.”6

Submit your appeal online or by printing Form HA-520 and mailing or faxing it to your local Social Security office.

4. Federal Court

Finally, if you disagree with the Appeals Council’s action, you can file a civil suit in U.S. District Court. The Appeals Council denial letter will provide the information you need to launch the federal court review process.

“Follow the SSI denial appeal instructions to make sure your voice is heard,” Hotton advised. “Deadlines are very specific, so start early, and get your information needed to send back to the SSA.”

How can I get help with the SSI appeal denial process?

There are many ways to get assistance. You can ask a friend or family member to help you with the forms. You can designate a representative—an attorney or another qualified person—to act on your behalf. Some people hire an SSI appeal lawyer. If you’d like an attorney but can’t afford one, you may be able to obtain free or low-cost legal representation.

“I recommend that you have a relative or friend review your denial response to make sure you answered the questions thoroughly,” Hotton said. “If you feel overwhelmed, contact your free Legal Aid program for assistance or direction.”

The SSA can give you a list of legal referral services and organizations that may be able to help. And if you need an interpreter, the SSA will provide one free of charge.

You’ll find more information about the SSI denial appeal process in the SSA’s Your Right to Question the Decision Made on Your Claim.

Are there other benefits programs for older adults?

Find out if you are eligible for other federal benefits by using the SSA’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST). You can also use BenefitsCheckUp®, the National Council on Aging’s free, confidential tool. It can help you determine if you are eligible for benefits programs like SSI, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and others that can help pay for health care, medicine, food, and utilities.


1. Social Security Administration. Understanding Supplemental Security Income Appeals Process. 2023 Edition. Found on the internet at

2. Social Security Administration. Monthly Statistical Snapshot. October 2023. Found on the internet at

3. Social Security Administration. SSI Federal Payment Amounts for 2024. Found on the internet at

4. Social Security Administration. Request for Reconsideration. October 2022. Found on the internet at

5. Social Security Administration. Request Hearing with a Judge. Found on the internet at

6. Social Security Administration. Request Review of Hearing Decision. Found on the internet at

7. Social Security Administration. How Someone Can Help You with Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 2023 Edition. Found on the internet at