The Appeals Council Denied My Administrative Appeal. Can I Appeal That Denial?
As we recently discussed, if your application for Social Security benefits has been denied, you have the right to pursue an appeal. Your first step is to pursue reconsideration. If your application is denied upon reconsideration, you can then seek review by an administrative law judge (ALJ). If the ALJ renders an unfavorable opinion, you can then seek review by the Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council decides to deny your appeal, what comes next? Do you have any options left? Below, our experienced California social security disability insurance lawyers explain what happens after an Appeals Council denial.
Appeals Council Review
As previously explained, when you appeal a decision from the ALJ, the Appeals Council will review the evidence supporting the ALJ’s decision. If sufficient evidence supports the ALJ’s ruling, the Appeals Council will deny the appeal. If the evidence is lacking, the Appeals Council will either send the case back for further review or decide the matter themselves. Even if they choose to review the case, they could still ultimately decide to deny the application.
Federal Court Review
If the Appeals Council rejects your appeal, or if they decide to take your appeal and then deny you benefits, you can take your case one step further: You can file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the decision of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
You have 60 days from the Appeals Council decision to appeal. Your appeal will actually be a complaint filed in federal court, naming the current Social Security commissioner as the defendant. The court will issue a summons, which you must serve on the SSA along with a copy of the complaint. You will then need to draft a legal brief in support of your position challenging the decision of the SSA.
The SSA cannot help you file your complaint or draft your written brief in support. Filing a case in federal court requires significant legal expertise, and even if you have not retained an attorney up to that point, hiring a lawyer is strongly recommended before attempting to sue in federal court. Federal courts follow strict procedural and evidentiary rules, and failing to adhere to these rules can get your case tossed out on a technicality. Moreover, your opening brief will essentially win or lose your case. Your brief will need to analyze the decision of the ALJ, compare it to the evidence and any testimony available, and convincingly argue that the ALJ either acted against the evidence or otherwise failed to comply with the law.
After you file a brief, the SSA will file its response brief. You, by way of your attorney, will then file a reply brief in support of your position. The court may schedule oral arguments. After receiving all briefs and hearing arguments, the federal court will render a decision. The court can affirm the ALJ’s decision, reverse the ALJ’s decision and award you benefits, or remand the case back to the ALJ for further proceedings consistent with the court’s ruling (i.e., fixing some error in the process). The process can take upwards of a year.
Disability Benefits Denied? We Can Help.
For help obtaining disability benefits in southern California or statewide, call the experienced and professional Social Security Disability (SSD/SSI) attorneys Drake & Drake at 818-624-4695.