The 3 Possible Outcomes of a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing

Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing Scenarios

If you’re scheduled for a disability appeal hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), you may have questions about what to expect. Once your hearing is over, you’ll learn its outcome via a written decision the ALJ sends to you. The decision you receive can be a full approval, partial approval or denial.

What Does Each Decision Mean?

Fully Favorable Decision

Both a full and partial approval means the administrative law judge ruled in your favor. The difference between the two rulings is how far back your disability benefits will go. If you receive a full approval, it means the ALJ agrees with the disability onset date you stated in your filing. This is called a “fully favorable decision.”

Partially Favorable Decision

Less common than a fully favorable decision is a “partially favorable decision.” In this situation, the judge will provide their own date for when they believe you actually became disabled. It’s worth noting that a judge won’t arbitrarily pick a date. Instead, they will include their reasoning in the written decision they send to you. And even though this decision may seem less than ideal at first, it’s important to remember that it in many cases it won’t have a negative impact on the amount of monthly benefits you receive in the future. Instead, it simply means you won’t be able to collect quite as much back pay. You may choose to appeal a partially favorable decision; however, doing so places your entire decision (even the favorable parts) up for review, meaning your total claim could be denied on appeal and you could owe money back to SSA.


A denial is the third possible decision an ALJ may issue. Receiving a denial by an ALJ is disappointing and may be quite discouraging. Although receiving a denial means you won’t start getting any disability benefits, you still have an opportunity to appeal the denial to the SSA Appeals Council.

Filing an Appeal

While there are several aspects to filing an appeal of an ALJ decision, it’s crucial that you remember to file it within sixty days. Other aspects to remember are that the appeal must be in writing and must demonstrate why the decision didn’t take all evidence into account. You can also include new evidence with your appeal.

Because of the time-sensitive and often complex nature of filing an appeal, if you’ve recently received a denial you may want to contact Lisa M. Ritacco to have a free consultation about how she may be able to help with your appeal.

How Does an Administrative Law Judge Decide?

To better understand the written decision you’ll receive after your disability appeal, here are the five steps an ALJ goes through:

  • Determine if and when you officially stopped working and if the reason you stopped working was as a result of your health impairment(s)
  • Evaluate the severity of your impairment(s)
  • Determine if your impairment(s) meet the criteria for a disability Listing
  • Assess if you’re capable of performing your prior type of work
  • Explore if you’re able to do any other type of work

If you have any additional questions about these steps or other aspects of a disability appeal hearing, it’s easy to reach Lisa M. Ritacco for a free consultation.