The Social Security Appeals Council is the second tier in the three part appeals process. You can apply to the Appeals Council after the denial of your Social Security Disability benefits has been upheld in a hearing. In most cases, you must request that the Appeals Council review your Social Security Disability case within 60 days of the hearing. You can obtain information regarding how to request a review at the Social Security Administration.
When reviewing your Social Security Disability case, the Appeals Council will be looking primarily at the decision rendered by the Administrative Law Judge to determine whether there was an error on his part. They do not generally consider the actual merits of your case, focusing rather on whether or not the judge adequately considered the evidence presented.
There is generally a significant backlog of Social Security Disability cases at any given time. Applicants can expect to wait anywhere from three months to a year for this part of the process, and it’s not unusual for the process to take even longer.
Once your case comes before the Appeals Council, they will make one of three decisions. They may:
- Deny your request for review. If your request for review is denied by the Appeals Council, you will receive a letter stating that your request has been denied. At this point, you may either accept the decision or press the matter to the next tier of the appeals process: Federal Court.
- Remand your case. If the Appeals Council believes that the Administrative Law Judge made a technical error in considering the evidence at your hearing, or that pertinent medical evidence wasn’t considered, they will send the case back for another hearing. This does not guarantee approval of Social Security Disability benefits, but it does grant you another opportunity to present your case.
- Overturn the denial of Social Security Disability benefits. The Appeals Council can decide that the judge’s decision was completely wrong based on the evidence presented and overturn his ruling. If they do, your Social Security Disability benefits have been approved.
As with the rest of the appeals process, you may choose to make your request for review to the Appeals Council yourself. However, most people would be well advised to consider legal council when dealing with the Social Security Disability appeals process.