Try though we might, some strong disability cases just do not get approved when they go in front of an administrative law judge for a hearing.
There could be an issue with contradictory evidence, testimony from the claimant or a Social Security expert, or a judge misapplying the law that leads to a denial.
The good news is that such denials can be appealed yet again within the Social Security Administration. The bad news is that it’s not a quick process.
Appeals must be filed with the Appeals Council within 60 days of the administrative law judge issuing his or her decision.
Headquartered in Falls Church, Va. And made up of more than 50 judges, the Appeals Council is the final level of administrative review for Social Security disability cases.
While administrative law judges are tasked with making a new decision in disability cases, the purpose of the Appeals Council is only to review whether the administrative law judge made an error.
That means it can be substantially harder to get a favorable decision before the Appeals Council. They receive about 156,000 appeals each year.
Less than a quarter of a time, the Appeals Council will send the case back to an administrative law judge for another hearing to correct the error.
In rare cases-only about 3 percent of the time- the council will overturn the judge and ward benefits without another hearing.
In all other cases, the appeal is simply denied.
The entire process usually takes about a year. It’s even longer if another hearing is scheduled.
Cases denied by the Appeals Council can be appealed with a lawsuit filed in federal district court. A few disability cases even make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.