What is the SSA Appeals Council?

What is the Appeals Council
By Kimberly BishopApril 14, 2013

If you are denied by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) after your Social Security Disability hearing, you can appeal your case to the Appeals Council (AC) in Falls Church, VA. The Bishop Law Firm represents Social Security Disability clients at the Appeals Council in North Carolina. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095.

SSA Appeal Process

The SSA appeals process can have many steps. If you are denied at the initial level, you must appeal for a reconsideration. If you are denied at the reconsideration level, you must appeal to get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If you are denied by the Administrative Law Judge, you must appeal to the Appeals Council. If you are denied by the Appeals Council, you must file a case in Federal Court. Also read Overview of the Disability Process.

SSA Appeals Council

You have sixty days from the date of the ALJ denial to request Appeals Council review. There are two ways to request AC review. You can write a statement explaining how the ALJ erred in his/her decision or you can complete form HA 520. 

You can go to your local Social Security office to file the appeal, file the appeal online or you can fax it in to the AC. You will need to call the AC’s main phone number and find out where you need to fax your request. The AC’s phone number is (703) 605-8000. Do not rely on fax numbers that you find for the AC online. The AC fax numbers are constantly changing. I would suggest a phone call to them to verify the correct fax number for you to send your request for review to.

Prior to 2011, you could file a new claim and also file for an appeal at the AC if you received an ALJ denial. Now, you are limited to one or the other. This is an important choice and should be discussed with your disability attorney.

The AC does not consider whether the correct decision was made about your disability; they simply look for legal error based on the evidence that the ALJ had at the time the decision was made. Usually, additional medical evidence submitted to the AC after the ALJ's decision is not considered unless it relates back or is from the time period in question.

Some common legal errors are: failure to consider relevant medical evidence, failure to evaluate a claimant's impairments under the SSA Listings, misclassification of claimant's past work (if this affected the outcome of the case) or issues with the ALJ's RFC.

The AC can deny review (most common), remand to the ALJ or approve your case. Appeals Council review is usually is the slowest part of a disability case. It can take up 1.5 years for a decision to be rendered on your appeal. You can request a dire need if you meet certain criteria.

In your Social Security Disability case, the Appeals Council is the last stop in your claim before the agency itself. If you are denied by the AC, you have the option of filing a case in Federal Court (DC). The DC, similar to the AC, looks for legal error, not whether the correct decision was made. In addition, you can file a new claim while you have a Federal Court case pending.

The Bishop Law Firm has experience with the Appeals Council and Federal Court. Our firm represents Social Security Disability clients in RaleighDurhamFayettevilleCaryRocky MountWilsonSmithfieldLouisburgChapel HillRoanoke Rapids and surrounding areas in North Carolina.

If you have been denied by an ALJ and are wondering if you should take your case to the Appeals Council or District Court, give us a call, (919) 615-3095.

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