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 and about filing suit in federal district court. Find out when you can both appeal and file a new disability claim.
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 the partially favorable decision. Send your request directly to the Appeal Council’s office in the State of Virginia. The address is Appeals Council, SSA/ODAR, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3255
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, usually at least a year and sometimes exceeding two years.
The Appeals Council Review Process
The Appeals Council can take a variety of actions on your request. The Council will be reviewing to be sure that the judge followed all the rules including considering all evidence. It may then decline to review your case or uphold the judge’s decision if all procedures were followed correctly. A second though the rare possibility is for the Council to look at the evidence and how the decision was arrived at and approve your claim. The third option is the more common Appeals Council action when a procedural error has been made: the Council sends 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?
No New Disability Claim While Your Appeal Pends
Social Security regulations no longer allow you to both appeals a hearing decision to the Appeals Council and file a new claim. You must choose between an Appeals Council Review and a new claim.
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.
If you were still insured for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits on the day after your hearing appeal was denied, you can file a brand-new disability claim. The new claim will be processed while a federal lawsuit 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 SSDI claim is approved, benefits will start in the sixth full calendar month after the established disability date, which, again, has to be after the last denial. (You do not have to be insured to file a new Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim. SSI benefits will begin the month after the date of the new application.) If your claim is approved through the lawsuit, you will get back pay based on your first original application. It is possible to be approved on both the new claim and the federal lawsuit. A lawyer who is versed in Social Security Disability law can be helpful with effectively filing a new claim and with forming your appeal.
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?