How to File a Complaint Against Social Security

By Cara O'Neill
Social Security employees, judges, claimants

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Social Security programs provide safety nets for seniors entering their retirement years, people suffering with disabilities and the children of deceased parents. Applying might be routine for a senior citizen, but it can be challenging for someone facing a disability or children dealing with the loss of parents. Unfair treatment at the hands of a Social Security Administration employee or administrative law judge adds insult to injury. If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you can file a complaint -- the Social Security Administration can even help you with the process.

Applying for Disability

Most people do not encounter problems applying for retirement and survivor benefits. Applying for disability benefits is more complicated, however, since it requires you to prove that a medical condition prevents you from working. A lot paperwork and frequent contact with a caseworker are involved in this process. If the SSA does not agree with your doctor, your case will be heard by an administrative law judge.


SSA employees and administrative law judge are prohibited form discriminating against you based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability or parental status. They are also prohibited from threatening or harassing you. What's more, they cannot retaliate against you for filing a complaint against the SSA.

File a Discrimination Complaint

If you feel your rights have been violated, remain calm and take careful notes about the situation. If a judge at a hearing acts inappropriately, remain at the hearing until it is over. After the incident, tell an employee of the SSA that you would like to file a complaint. You can file a written complaint in letter form, use Discrimination Complaint Form (SSA-437) or ask the SSA to help you file the complaint. You will be required to provide your name, address, telephone number and Social Security number; the name of the responsible person; and the name and address of any witnesses. You also must explain what happened and give the date it occurred. Generally, you must file the complaint within 180 days of the incident with the Office of the General Counsel for the Social Security Administration. The SSA will conduct a review and notify you of its results.

Appealing Your Claim Determination

If you disagree with the action taken by the SSA on your disability claim, you must appeal that decision within the specified time period. Filing a discrimination or harassment complaint does not extend the time you have to file your appeal of the disability claim determination.

About the Author

An attorney for more than 20 years, Cara O'Neill currently practices in the areas of civil litigation, family law and bankruptcy. She also served as an Administrative Law Judge and taught undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of employment law, business law and criminal law for a well-known university. Attending the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, she graduated a National member of the Order of the Barristers - an honor society recognizing excellence in courtroom advocacy. She is currently licensed in the state of California.