The initial application for Social Security Disability benefits is the first step. If your disability claim is refused, the next step is to request reconsideration. If that again fails, the application process advances to the next stage, which is a hearing before an administrative law judge. If the administrative law judge denies your application, the fourth step is to request that the Appeals Council review it. You or your counsel may request that your case be reviewed by the Appeals Council.
The Appeals Council does not make factual determinations in your case. Rather than that, it is responsible for assessing whether the administrative law judge who evaluated and denied your case made an error. When your case is considered by the Appeals Council, there are three possible outcomes.
The Appeals Council may determine that the judge did not analyze all relevant medical documentation in your disability claim or that the court committed a legal technical error. In some instances, the Appeals Court will remand your disability claim to the judge, instructing him or her to rehear your case. You must then wait for the court to rule on your claim for social security disability a second time to determine whether it will be allowed or denied.
The Appeals Council may conclude that the judge’s decision was erroneous. If this is the case, it will overrule the judge’s decision, resulting in the approval of your disability claim.
Both of these circumstances are exceedingly uncommon. Usually, the Appeals Council will not discover an error and will issue you a letter informing you that your request for review was denied. This implies that the administrative law judge’s decision to deny your Social Security Disability claim was affirmed.
An appeal can take over a year to be reviewed by the Appeals Council or it can be heard in a matter of months, depending on factors beyond your control, such as the volume of cases filed to the Appeals Council for consideration.
If you choose to appeal, you only have sixty days from the day you receive notification that your disability claim has been refused to complete Social Security Form HA-520. Unless you can demonstrate otherwise, Social Security will assume you received their denial notification five days after it was mailed. If you file your appeal late, the administrative law judge may dismiss it, and you risk losing your right to have your disability case reviewed. If you file after the deadline but have a valid reason, Social Security may extend the time restriction. However, it is prudent to file an appeal within the sixty-day period.