Monday, June 16, 2014

Appealing an Unfavorable ALJ Decision to the Appeals Council

If you have received an unfavorable decision in your Social Security Disability case from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you can appeal the case by asking for a review from the Appeals Council.  The Appeals Council (AC) is the administrative body within the Social Security Administration that is responsible for reviewing ALJ decisions.     

The Appeals Council is located in Falls Church, Virginia and it consists of 50 Administrative Appeals Judges and more than 50 Appeals Officers.  These Judges and their staff handle Social Security Appeals for the entire country.  If you file an appeal with the Appeals Council, you will not have to travel to Falls Church, Virginia or appear in person before these judges.  All the arguments made in your appeal to the AC must be made in writing.   

If you are in receipt of an unfavorable ALJ decision, you have 60 days to file an appeal with the Appeals Council.  This request must be done in writing using Form HA-520.  It is also advisable to consult with a Social Security Disability Lawyer before filing the appeal.  In most cases a Social Security lawyer will also file a brief on your behalf setting forth the reasons why the ALJ made an error in your case. 

Keep in mind that the Appeals Council will not rehear your case but instead, will determine whether the ALJ made an error in his or her decision.  Therefore there no no new testimony taken in your case and, in most cases new evidence supporting your appeal will not be allowed.  It takes a very long time for the Appeals Council to decide your case.  In many cases it is taking more than a year to hear back from the Appeals Council.

When the Appeals Council decides your case, it can take one of three actions: 1. Deny your request for an appeal, 2.  Remand the case back to the ALJ, forcing the ALJ to have a new hearing, 3.  Issue a decision and award you disability benefits.

If you wish to file an appeal with the Appeals Council, you can do this alone.  However, appeals filed without the assistance of a lawyer are often denied.  For this reason, it is a good idea to request a free initial consultation from a lawyer who handles Social Security Disability Law before deciding to go at it alone.