It can be disheartening (to say the least) when the Social Security Administration denies a disability benefits appeal at both the reconsideration and hearing stages. Yet it is important to recognize that the appeals process doesn’t have to end here.
What is the next step? If you disagree with the decision you received after a hearing with an administrative law judge, you can request a review of your case from the SSA’s Appeals Council. This is the last step in the administrative appeals and is followed only by litigation in federal court. You must request this review in writing within 60 days of receiving the hearing decision (Form HA-520-U5).
Does this require another hearing? No. The Appeals Council, which only has offices in Virginia and Maryland, reviews the information in your claim file and the hearing judge’s decision along with any additional evidence, information or comments you and your representative submit. The Council can also deny your request for a review if it feels the hearing judge made the correct decision.
Assuming the Appeals Council agrees to review your case, it will either send your claim back to an administrative law judge for further review or issue its own decision (which may or may not be the same as the hearing judge’s decision). In either case, you and/or your disability attorney will be notified of the Council’s action by mail.
Lastly, if your request for review is denied or you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you may elect to file a civil suit in a federal district court, which is the last step in the appeals process and the subject of our next post.
Source: Social Security Administration, “Social Security Appeals Council Review Process,” May 25, 2012