Can You Appeal A Decision By A Judge On A Social Security Disability or SSI Case?

As with all decisions made by the Social Security Administration, an administrative law judge's decision can be appealed. An administrative law judge decision, made at a social security hearing, can be appealed to the Appeals Council by filing an "Appeals Council review request".

Generally, you must request the review of the judge's decision within sixty days of the Social security hearing decision. But Social Security assumes that you received your hearing denial notice within five days of the notice being mailed and this is why you actually have sixty-five days in which to get the hearing submitted (remember, though, that the appeal must be at the Appeals Council within that time frame).

If you do not file your request for review in a timely fashion, an administrative law judge can dismiss the request unless you can provide a sound reason for the judge to give you "good cause" for your late filing.

Once your request makes its way to the Appeals Council, it will be evaluated to see if the council feels the administrative law judge or ALJ made a correct decision. If they feel that the decision is correct, your request for review may be denied. If the Appeals Council decides to review your disability case, it can make a medical decision itself. Or, it can remand your disability case back to the Administrative Law Judge for further review--translation: your case would have a second hearing with the same judge who denied you before.

The Appeal Council considers all aspects of your disability claim when making its decision. Very few disability claims receive a favorable decision from the Appeals Council itself. As was stated, those cases that are remanded are reviewed by the same Administrative Law Judge who denied your disability.

As you might imagine, appeals that are sent to the appeals council result in very few decisional changes. However, it is always worth appealing an Administrative Law Judge decision on the off chance that your disability claim will be approved either at the Appeals Council or by the Administrative Law Judge at a second hearing.

Social Security realizes that very few disability claims will be approved at the Appeals Council, so it allows disabled individuals the option to file a new initial disability claim while awaiting the Appeals Council review decision.

Is the appeals council the end of the line in the social security appeal system? No, even the Appeals Council decision can be appealed, but that appeal would have be made in Federal District Court. Most individuals do no choose to purse their disability claim into Federal District Court because of the cost of legal representation. Generally, it is easier and more cost effective to just file a new initial disability claim, i.e. a new disability application.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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