Social Security Disability Claims at the Appeals Council and District Court

Applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration is a layered process. If a claimant is denied initially, then they must file a request for reconsideration. If their request for reconsideration is denied, then they must file a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Claimants should be aware that each of these appeals must be filed within 60 days of receiving a denial letter.

At the hearing level, the claimant’s chances of success improve. However, even strong claims can be denied by an Administrative Law Judge for a variety of reasons. It is a nationwide trend that more Social Security disability cases are being denied.

Appeals Council

When an Administrative Law Judge denies a claim, then the next step is to request a review from the Appeals Council. This request must be made within 60 days of the denial notice. The Appeals Council is located in Falls Church, Virginia and performs a review of the claimant’s evidence. There is no hearing at this stage, and requests for review must be made in writing. Unfortunately, the time it takes for the Appeals Council to make a decision is extremely long. The Social Security Administration’s website states that “the average processing time was 395 days” for the period of October 2011 – September 2012.

District Court

If the Appeals Council neglects to overturn the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, then there is still a chance for the claimant to request a review. At this juncture, it is the claimant’s right to file a lawsuit in federal district court. This lawsuit must be filed within 60 days of the Appeals Council’s denial letter. At the district court level, the claimant has an opportunity to submit a comprehensive legal brief to the court explaining why the Social Security Administration’s denial was wrong. The judge will review this brief, as well as any response arguments from the government, and issue a ruling. This process can be very time consuming and take well over a year.

If the federal district court agrees that the SSA’s decision was wrong, then the court can remand the case back to the SSA for a new hearing. In rare circumstances, the court can actually order approval of the disability benefits. If the court upholds the SSA’s denial of benefits, then the claimant may consider appealing to a higher federal court. There are no available statistics for the number of cases remanded by the federal court.

Contact O’Ryan Law Firm

During the Appeals Council and federal district court appeals process, it is highly recommended to obtain legal representation. At the district court level, an attorney can file a detailed legal analysis using the SSA’s regulations and relevant case law. Having an attorney prepare a legal brief can give you the best chance of overturning the SSA’s denial. The O’Ryan Law Firm represents Social Security disability claimants at every stage of the Social Security disability process. If you would like an attorney to review your Social Security disability case, please contact the O’Ryan Law Firm today.