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The Appeals Process

If you have been to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge as part of your disability claim, chances are that you did not find out at that time whether or not you won your case. As you wait and wonder what the result of your case will be, you may also be wondering what rights you have if your case has been denied. Just because a judge denies your case, does not mean that it is the end of the road for your claim.

If you are denied disability benefits by an Administrative Law Judge, you have the right to ask the Appeals Council to review the decision. The Appeals Council is a group of senior judges within the Social Security Administration. Upon appealing your case, the Appeals Council will look at the evidence in the file in order to conclude whether the judge in your case made a decision that was supported by the applicable law and regulations.

You must appeal your case within a set amount of time. You generally have 60 days to file an appeal. If you do not appeal on time, your appeal may be dismissed unless you have a good reason for being unable to file your appeal within 60 days.

In order to request an appeal, you must complete and submit Social Security Administration Form HA-520. Your local Social Security field office should have copies of this form available for you to complete and submit.

There are several different courses of action that the Appeals Council can take with your claim. You will not have to appear before the Appeals Council. Rather, they will decide what to do about your claim based the medical records on file in your case. They will also look at the testimony that you gave at your hearing. If the Appeals Council believes that the judge in your case made an error, the typical course of action the Appeals Council will take is to remand the case back to the original judge for further proceedings. In other words, the Appeals Council will require there to be an additional hearing, generally before the same judge. Besides ordering a remand, the Appeals Council can also determine that the judge made the right decision in your case. At this point, you may appeal again if you wish. This time, your appeal will head to federal court. It is rare that the Appeals Council simply overrules the judge from your hearing and orders payment of benefits.

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