If you're here because the Appeals Council upheld the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) decision to deny you disability benefits, you still have a chance.
The next step that needs to be taken on your behalf is appealing your case at the Federal District Court level. However, trying to properly appeal at the Federal District level on your own can be risky, given that there are procedural rules that must be followed without error.
Fortunately, our disability lawyers can help you appeal your case to the appropriate Federal District Court. And why do we offer appealing at the federal level for our clients?
We've witnessed too many instances of Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) writing decisions that are contrary to Social Security Rulings. Filing at the federal level is a service our clients need and deserve.
Appealing a Disability Decision to Federal District Court
Some people are surprised to learn that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not lend any assistance in helping you file an appeal at the Federal District Court level. This is yet another reason to consult with a disability attorney that has experience dealing with the Federal District Court.
After you receive a denial at the Appeals Council, you have 60 days from that date to appropriately file a complaint with the proper Federal District Court in the area of your residence.
Office of the General Council
Once your disability attorney has filed the complaint on your behalf, a summons will be issued. The next step will be for the attorney to serve the summons and copy of the complaint to the appropriate Office of the General Council (OGC). (The OGC's role inside SSA is to sort out all legal issues regarding SSA's programs, such as SSD and SSI.) Failure to complete these steps appropriately can be ground for dismissal of your disability claim.
Opening and Reply Briefs
After the OGC is placed on notice, an attorney for SSA will then prepare a response to the summons filed on your behalf by your attorney. If, in the opinion of the attorney for SSA, it is believed the ALJ and Appeals Council were justified in their previous findings, then your attorney will be required to file an Opening Brief for your claim.
In short, the Opening Brief is a written document that outlines the summary of your disability claim with the end goal being to convince the federal judge that the medical evidence provided in your disability claim was improperly evaluated. SSA will then have a chance to respond to you and your attorney's arguments by filing a response to the Opening Brief. Last, you and your attorney will have a final opportunity to offer an additional Reply Brief.
What happens next?
Once the judge at the Federal District Court level has heard the arguments from both sides, there are 3 potential outcomes to your disability benefits claim:
- Award you disability benefits!
- Agree with the ALJ's findings and deny your benefits. (If this happens, you still have the option of appealing at the Federal Circuit Court level.)
- Send your disability claim back to the ALJ and ask them to reconsider the supporting medical evidence that may have been viewed improperly. (In our experience, clients are more likely to receive their benefits than not if the federal judge sends your disability claim back to the ALJ for additional review.)
Our disability lawyers never recommend trying to appeal at the Federal District Court level without experienced legal representation. If you've come this far, it's not worth risking a mistake that disallows your disability claim to be considered.
We have experience dealing with the federal courts and are not afraid to take your case to the top if we believe it's deserving. In addition, we offer every disability client a Zero Fee Guarantee. This means that you'll never be charged a consultation fee, and the only way we are paid for our legal services is if you receive your benefits.
If you have a question about appealing your disability claim at the Federal District Court level, you can speak to one of our Social Security attorneys by calling 1-800-253-5537, or you can write to us by using our free contact form.