We’ve been running through the different stages of the appeals process, and today we get to the last step: filing a civil lawsuit in a federal district court. How often does it come to this? Not very often.
Social Security Administration statistics from last year show that agency received 14,236 new court cases during the 2011 fiscal year while processing 13,955 new court cases and ending the fiscal year with 1,136 new court cases pending. In comparison to the total number of applications for disability benefits the SSA receives and the total number of claims it denies each year, however, these numbers represent only a small fraction of cases.
So, getting back to the appeals process, disability claimants can only file a civil suit in a federal district court if they have exhausted all of their administrative appeal options. In real terms, this happens when the Appeals Council declines to review a case or issues a decision that the claimant disagrees with.
To get from “there” to federal court, you must file your civil action in the U.S. District Court for the judicial district where you live or have your principal place of business within 60 days of receiving the adverse decision from the Appeals Council. When you do that, must send copies of the complaint and summons by certified or registered mail to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the General Counsel for your judicial district.
Lastly, keep in mind that the federal court system has its own appeals process. This means that lawsuits stemming from denied claims for disability benefits can (and have) been decided by U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court itself.
Source: Social Security Online, “Federal Court Review Process,” May 25, 2012