Many New Jerseyans file for SSDI benefits. But far too often their initial application is rejected. As a result, when New Jerseyans apply, they should steel themselves for the possibility of having to fight to get that rejection overturned.

Step one is to know that many meritorious claims get rejected the first time around. But that does not mean that the game is over. To the contrary, New Jerseyans with a good claim still have avenues for turning a defeat into a victory.

Step two is to file an appeal. The appeals process can be bumpy, but it follows a well-worn path. That path begins with filing what is called a reconsideration. Requesting reconsideration, in essence, is asking for a new person to review your original application. This new person may see the application differently than the first reviewer.

If reconsideration does not lead to a happy result, the next move is to seek a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. The judge will ask the applicant and other witnesses about your claim. The judge may also consider additional evidence if provided by the applicant or the government.

If the administrative law judge balks at granting the application, the next stop in the process is an appeals council. The council will conduct an initial, cursory review. If that review convinces them that the administrative law judge is right, the council will bounce the case without a deeper review. If the council is skeptical, they will looker deeper and either resolve the matter themselves or kick it back to the administrative law judge for further review.

If the application is still denied, one option remains: Filing a civil lawsuit in federal court.