Social Security Disability Benefits - Appealing a Denial
By Aaron Larson
- What Appeals Are Available Following A Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits?
- What Happens At The Administrative Hearing?
- What Is the Social Security National Appeals Council?
- What Happens In Federal Court
- Should I Use A Lawyer?
- What Are My Chances On Appeal?
If your application for Social Security benefits is denied, technically speaking the first level of appeal is your application for reconsideration, which is discussed in this associated article.
After your initial application for Social Security disability benefits is denied, and your application for reconsideration has also been rejected, the next step is a formal appeal of the denial. The appeal involves a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, who provides an independent review of the decision to deny benefits.
If the initial appeal is also denied, you can next appeal to the Social Security National Appeals Council in Washington, DC.
If that appeal also fails, you may file a lawsuit to try to obtain benefits. The lawsuit would be filed in federal court.
Your formal appeal will result in your case being scheduled for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ is an employee of the Social Security Administration. The ALJ makes an independent review of your application after a relatively informal hearing, and makes a decision on your claim.
The only people who are likely to be at the hearing are the ALJ, an administrative assistant who records the proceeding, the claimant, the claimaint's attorney, and any witnesses the claimaint has brought to the hearing. The ALJ may also call a medical or vocational expert to testify at the hearing. There is no "opposing counsel" at the hearing to claim that you don't qualify for benefits.
The Appeals Council is based in Falls Church, Virginia, and reviews the decisions of the Administrative Law Judge. There is no hearing before the Appeals Council which can be attended by either the claimaint or the claimant's attorney.
If you lose your initial appeals, you may start a lawsuit in federal court. This will be traditional, formal litigation, and the Social Security Administration will use a lawyer to defend against your lawsuit. If your initial lawsuit fails, you may appeal to the federal appeals court, and even to the U.S. Supreme Court.
To maximize your chances on appeal, it is very helpful to use a lawyer who is familiar with the Social Security appeals process. However it is possible to pursue your administrative appeals without a lawyer. The Social Security Administration limits the amount an attorney can charge a client for Social Security proceedings (but not for appeals in federal court).
In the event that your initial appeals are denied, it can be quite difficult to prosecute a lawsuit in federal court without the assistance of a lawyer.
Your chances of obtaining the reversal of a disability benefits denial are quite good. Approximately half of appeals of disability benefits denials are successful.
Copyright © 2004 Aaron Larson. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.