Appeals Council and Federal Court Review
After receiving an unfavorable ruling at your administrative hearing, the next steps in the appeals process are: 1) review by the Appeals Council; and 2) if the Appeals Council denies you benefits, a civil action in Federal Court.
The Appeals Council represents the Social Security system’s final appellate level, but it is not legally obligated to grant a claimant’s request for review of an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decision. When the Appeals Council agrees to reconsider an ALJ’s ruling, it will review the record from your administrative hearing and determine whether the appropriate action is to affirm it, modify it, reverse it, or remand it for a new hearing.
A claimant has a right to submit new evidence if review is granted as long as the evidence developed prior to issuance of the ALJ’s decision. The claimant and his or her Orange County Social Security advocate probably will not have an opportunity to be heard by the Appeals Council as it almost never conducts a hearing when considering an appeal. The Appeals Council’s decision is based solely on the administrative record and any new evidence the claimant submits.
The Appeals Council’s ruling on whether to modify an ALJ’s ruling is the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. As such, a dissatisfied claimant’s only recourse after a denial of benefits is to file a civil action in U.S. District Court, naming the Commissioner of Social Security as a defendant. If the District Court judge affirms the Appeal’s Council’s decision, the claimant must file an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals and then finally, a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.
Filing a civil action in Federal Court can be a financially taxing endeavor, and you should consult your Orange County Social Security disability advocate before deciding to file. The advocate will be able to analyze your case and advise you as to whether the facts warrant taking your appeal to Federal Court.
If you need assistance filing an appeal of the Social Security Administration’s decision to deny you benefits, please contact Orange County Social Security disability advocate Joseph F. Massa.