If you are denied Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will most likely go through different stages of an appeals process in hopes of getting approval for your application. After requesting reconsideration and attending an ALJ hearing, if you are still denied disability benefits, you can request a hearing with the Appeals Council.
To approve your application for disability benefits, the Appeals Council will have to find proof that the ALJ made an incorrect decision and overturn the denial.
What to Expect
The Appeals Council will review your case to see if the ALJ’s decision is not supported by evidence that was available at the hearing, or if there is evidence of some sort of error in the judge’s procedure. If the Appeals Council believes that the ALJ made the correct decision, they will deny your request for an appeal. At this stage, if you are denied your appeal, you must start the entire application process over again.
The Appeals Council will look for clear evidence that the ALJ made the wrong decision regarding your case, such as if the judge did not consider the medical evidence from your primary care physician. Note that it does not matter if the council personally agrees with the ALJ’s decision – they just need to find proof of an error in the decision process.
If the Appeals Council does find an error and approves your appeal, they will either send your case back to the ALJ or decide the case themselves. If they handle the case themselves, they will notify you by mail about whether they approved or denied your appeal.
If your case is approved, you will be notified of how much money you will receive in benefits and when they will begin. If denied, as mentioned above, you must restart the SSD benefits application process from the beginning or file a claim in Federal Court.
It can take anywhere from six months to two years for the Appeals Council to make a decision about your case.
What to Do
You must file a request for an appeal with the Appeals Council within 60 days of the ALJ decision, although if you miss that deadline you may be able to get special permission if you show that you had a good reason for missing it.
It is strongly recommended that you don’t go to the Appeals Council unless you have hired a disability lawyer to represent your case. With your appeal, include a statement outlining your case, called a brief; your written arguments for why you need disability benefits, as well as why the ALJ made an error; and documentation of all new medical evidence pertaining to your disability.
Tips for Success
- Submit new medical evidence regarding your disability to the SSA on an ongoing basis. This evidence can include doctor’s visits, surgeries, therapies, new medications, lab work, tests results, and more.
- Don’t be afraid to repeatedly contact the SSA about the status of your case with the Appeals Council.
- Contact a qualified Social Security disability attorney to help you with your claim.