If your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (“SSDI” or “disability benefits”) is denied by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) at the claims process level, and after Reconsideration, an administrative hearing and by the Appeals Council, you can ask the Federal District Court for review.
Time To Appeal.
If you decide to request federal review, you only have 60 days from the date of the Appeals Council decision to file your complaint (see below) in federal district court.
Complaint and Answer.
To start federal review of the SSA’s denials of your claim, you will need to file a complaint in the proper federal district court for your area.
The complaint is the legal document used to start a litigation. It advises the defendant of the claims you are asserting against him/her. In this case, your complaint should name the current Social Security commissioner as the defendant (not the SSA itself).
Drafting, filing and properly serving a complaint that complies with all federal rules is not something you should try to do yourself. If you decide to seek federal district court review, you should hire experienced social security disability counsel.
After you file and serve your complaint, the SSA has a certain amount of time in which to respond with any defenses it has to your complaint by filing an “answer” with the court.
Briefs on Appeal.
After the initial pleadings have been filed and served (the complaint and answer) the court will set a date for you (or better yet, your counsel) to file an “Opening Brief.” An Opening Brief sets out the facts regarding your disability claim and the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) ruling denying your claim. It also provides legal and factual analysis of the evidence, law, and facts supporting all your reasons why the ALJ was wrong to deny your claim.
After your attorney has filed your Opening Brief, the attorney representing the SSA will file a Respondent’s Brief (or “Responding Brief”). Not surprisingly, the SSA will give all the legal and factual reasons in its brief as to why the ALJ’s decision in your case was correct.
Your attorney will then have a chance to file a brief (“Reply Brief”) that responds to the SSA’s brief.
After all the briefing is complete, the federal court may request oral argument from the parties. Oral argument is where the attorneys for both sides argue their case to the judge. Unlike what may have happened at your administrative hearing, this part of the process involves argument of counsel, not testimony from you or other witnesses.
The Federal Court’s Ruling.
When all the evidence and arguments in the case have been completed, the federal district court judge will make a decision.
The judge can:
- Decide that the ALJ was correct and “affirm” the ALJ’s ruling. (If this happens, consult counsel as to any additional options you may have.)
- Decide that the ALJ’s ruling was wrong and reverse, granting you benefits right then and there. (This is done very rarely. )
- Remand the case back to the ALJ. If the federal judge does this, it means that the federal court is sending the case back to the ALJ. This generally means that the ALJ either misapplied or did not apply certain facts or the law correctly. The federal court tells the ALJ to “do it over” so to speak and directs the ALJ to look at factors and issues that were not fully considered in the original hearing and decision.
Appeals to federal court are a lot of work and can take a long time to do, but they can be worthwhile.
The Parmele Law Firm.
We are experienced disability attorneys who know what it takes to file a successful SSDI claim or appeal. If you have been denied disability benefits, call us. We have helped many people get benefits and we can help you, too. We have offices throughout Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois. We have offices in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, too. We offer free consultations and we do not get paid unless you win your case. Contact us today or call us at 855-727-8625 to set up your free appointment.