What is a Social Security Appeals Council review, and what can I do if the Appeals Council denies my claim?
Learn about Social Security Appeals Council reviews after a hearing denial, when to file a simultaneous new claim, and filing suit in Federal court.
How to Appeal Your Hearing Denial
If your claim is denied by an Administrative Law Judge at the hearing—or you receive an only partially favorable hearing decision—and you wish to pursue your claim further, you can appeal one more time within the Social Security system. This appeal is called a Social Security Appeals Council review.
You must appeal to the Appeals Council within sixty days so that Appeals Council receives your appeal within sixty-five days of the date on your denial letter or notice of partially favorable decision. Send your request directly to the Appeal Council’s office in the State of Virginia. You can get the address and instructions on how to request the review by calling Social Security’s toll-free number (800) 772-1213, from your local Social Security office, or from Social Security’s website.
Appeals Council Review Processing Times
The Social Security Administration does not offer statistics about the average length of time the Appeals Council takes to complete its review, but it is quite a long time, sometimes exceeding two years.
The Appeals Council Review Process
The Appeals Council can take a variety of actions on your request. It will look at your claim, the Administrative Law Judge’s hearing decision, and your appeal. It may then decline to review your case if all procedures were followed and decision appears reasonable. It may review the case and uphold the ALJ’s decision, or it may look at the evidence and approve your claim. Lastly, if the Council thinks that an error may have been made, it may send your claim back to the same law judge for further investigation and a second hearing. This is called remanding your claim. You can find more information about remanded claims in our article What Happens if the Social Security Appeals Council Orders a Second Disability Hearing?
A New Disability Claim While Your Appeal Pends
If you were still insured for Social Security Disability benefits on the date that your hearing appeal was denied, which is the date shown on your hearing Notice of Decision, you can file a brand-new disability claim. The new claim will be processed while your request for Appeals Council Review is being processed. If you do file a new claim, you must show your hearing denial date as the first date you became disabled. If your new claim is approved, benefits will start in the sixth full month after the hearing was denied. If your Appeals Council Review is approved, you will get back pay based on your first original application. It is possible to be approved on both the new claim and the Appeals Council Review. A lawyer who is versed in Social Security Disability law can be helpful with effectively filing a new claim and with forming your appeal.
Filing Suit in Federal Court
If the Appeals Council chooses not to review your claim or reviews and determines you are not disabled, you have the right, at your own expense, to sue the Social Security Administration for benefits in the Federal District Court.
For information about the levels of appeal that lead up to a Social Security Appeals Council review, see our articles I Was Denied Social Security Disability. What Can I Do?, What is a Social Security Request for Reconsideration? and What is a Social Security Disability Hearing and What Can I Expect When I Request a Disability Hearing?