You were denied your disability benefits by an administrative law judge (ALJ) after a hearing, and now you're ready to take your claim to the next step: going to the Appeals Council with the hope that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will overturn the ALJ's decision.
It's important to remember that any number of disability applicants can potentially reach this stage. In fact, it's not uncommon to be be denied benefits at a hearing, especially if you don't have legal representation. What's important now is that you understand how beneficial it can be to have an experienced disability attorney on your side during the Appeals Council process.
Social Security Disability Appeals Council: What to Expect
First, it's important to know that similar to the rules of your request for reconsideration, if you're denied at the hearing level, you have 60 days to request that the Appeals Council review the findings of the ALJ.
Unlike a hearing, the Social Security Appeals Council doesn't analyze your disability claim. Instead, the sole responsibility of the Council is to look at the decision made by the ALJ and decide whether or not the means they used to reach that decision was made in accordance with federal law.
During the Appeals Council process a number of actions can occur:
- You may receive a letter stating the Appeals Council supports the ALJ's decision to deny.
If you receive a notice upholding the ALJ's decision, our disability lawyers are still able to help you appeal this decision by taking your claim to the Federal District Court level.
- You may be informed that the Appeals Council has requested your claim receive another hearing.
If the Appeals Council determines that an error was made while reviewing your disability claim, or specific medical evidence wasn't appropriately considered, your case can be put up for remand, meaning your claim will be sent back to the hearing level for review by a different ALJ.
- You may receive notice that the Appeals Council has overturned the ALJ's decision and granted you benefits.
While possible, it's rare that the Appeals Council will completely overturn the ALJ's decision and grant you benefits. In truth, it can be extremely difficult to win at the Appeals Council level without an experienced disability lawyer on your side.
How Long Will It Take The Appeals Council?
The time it takes the Appeals Council to render a decision, favorable or unfavorable, can vary greatly base don the backlog in the Social Security office and whether or not you have an attorney helping you with the process. Because an experienced disability attorney will have knowledge of the process and understand how to correctly file a claim with the Appeals Council, this can work to avoid any potential delays due to error.
Generally, a claimant can expect to the Appeals Council to take between 180 days to 2 years, depending on circumstances. Again, one of our disability attorneys can help give you a better idea of timelines based on your particular claim.
How Disability Attorneys Can Help With the Appeals Council
Our attorneys have years of experience in dealing with all phases of the disability process, including the Appeals Council. The process of filing and appropriate appeal with the Council can be overwhelming to anyone who doesn't deal directly with SSA on a day-to-day basis.
If you have reached this stage in your disability claim, it's our belief you should contact us to help you examine your claim as well as prepare your case for a potential appeal to the Federal District Court.
Each of Keller & Keller's clients receive a Zero Fee Guarantee, meaning you never pay for an Appeals Council consultation, and there is never a fee for our legal services unless you are approved for disability benefits.
You can speak to one of our disability attorneys now by calling 1-800-253-5537, or you can write to us by using our free contact form.
We look forward to helping you at the Appeals Council level!