Appeals Council and Federal Court Review

If you do not obtain a favorable ruling at your administrative hearing, the next steps are to request review by the Appeals Council and then, if the Appeals Council denies you benefits, a civil action in Federal Court.

The Appeals Council is the final appellate level within the Social Security system. When a claimant files a request for review of an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decision, the Appeals Council is not legally obligated to grant the request. If the request is granted, the Appeals Council 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.

If the Appeals Council grants a claimant’s request for review, or if the Appeals Council reviews a decision on its own motion, the claimant and his or her Virginia Social Security disability attorney may submit new evidence as long as the evidence developed prior to issuance of the ALJ’s decision. The Appeals Council almost never conducts a hearing when considering an appeal, but rather bases its decision on a review of the record from the administrative hearing.

If the Appeals Council chooses not to review the ALJ’s determination, the ALJ’s decision represents the Commissioner of Social Security’s final decision regarding a claimant’s application. If the claimant is still not satisfied with the result, his or her only recourse 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’s next recourse is to file an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals and then finally, with the United States Supreme Court by filing a petition for certiorari.

Given the expense of filing a civil action in Federal Court, you should consult a Virginia Social Security disability attorney before deciding to file. The attorney will be able to analyze your case and advise you as to whether you have a reasonable chance of obtaining reversal of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) decision.

If you need assistance filing an appeal of the SSA’s decision to deny you benefits, please contact Virginia Social Security disability attorney J. David Black.