What is the role of the United states district court in your social security disability case?
There can be many stages when trying to get disability benefits from Social Security. It starts with an application and through distinct levels of appeal you can go to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge and up to the Appeals Council. Each of these steps in the disability process happen within the Social Security Administration. Once you get to the Appeals Council, if you are denied again, there is no further appeal within Social Security. However, if you would like to appeal the case again, the next step is to appeal to the United States District Court.
What happens when your case is appealed to federal court?
When a case is appealed to federal court, it is assigned to a United States District Court Judge, in the district that you live in. At this level, there are no more hearings, and no new evidence is submitted. The federal judge does not consider whether or not you are disabled. Instead, the District Court judge that is assigned the case considers whether the previous Administrative Law Judge made any legal error in the case.
In order to make a decision about whether the prior judge made a legal error, arguments are made to the District Court judge. The arguments are primarily made by writing briefs that explain what the error was in this case. In the opening brief by the plaintiff (you), arguments about the errors in the previous decision are made using the law and the record from the case. The record includes all documents given to the Social Security Administration from the application forward, a transcript of the hearing, and all of Social Security’s decisions in your case.
After the opening brief is submitted to the District Court judge, an attorney that represents Social Security gets to respond to the arguments in a brief of their own. And the plaintiff may respond to what the attorneys from Social Security have argued in a Reply Brief.
Finally, depending on the judge, there may also be an oral argument where the arguments from the briefs are argued in-person to the District Court judge. After these arguments are made before the District Court judge, they decide how they will rule on the case.
There are a couple different ways that the judge can decide:
- If they agree with Social Security and find no legal error, the federal judge can affirm the decisions that denied the disability benefits.
- If the judge finds that there was an error that was harmful, they will reverse the decision finding you are not disabled. When they reverse the decision, the judge can either send the case back to the Social Security Administration for them to fix the legal error, or in rare cases, they will remand the case back to Social Security and order them to find you are disabled and give you your benefits.
What are the next steps you can take for your case?
The federal court appeal of a Social Security Disability claim can be a daunting task, but an attorney who specializes in disability can help you through the process.
We are Social Security attorneys, operating from offices in a number of cities in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois, and in several cities in Oklahoma. We offer free consultations and we do not get paid unless you win your case. Contact us online today for more information. We can also be reached at (618) 732-0146.