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How Helpful Is The Social Security Appeals Council?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

About 25 minutes ago, I was asked the following question in my office, "How helpful is the Social Security Appeals Council (AC)? I've been told that if I can get to them, I can finally win my case, is this true?" Below is my review of the AC...

If you are denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits there are a number of different avenues that you can go through in order to keep your case going. While the majority of claimants fail to continue to go through the appeals process, there are a select few that continue to follow that route, which could take years to go through before obtaining Social Security disability benefits. After an individual has been denied Social Security disability benefits, he or she can go through Reconsideration where the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review your denial and determine whether you should receive benefits. Should you be denied through Reconsideration (which almost everyone is), you can then apply for your Hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

After years of waiting for your day in court, should the ALJ reject your claim, there is still one last step someone can take aside from starting a brand new claim, which is appealing to the Social Security Appeals Council (AC). The few individuals that take this path typically have nothing good to say about the experience and for a good reason. On the SSA website, the AC is described as follows: "If you disagree with the hearing decision, you may ask for a review by Social Security’s Appeals Council. We will be glad to help you ask for this review." What SSA fails to mention is that they can simply choose to reject your application to be heard in the first place. There is a really good blog post by Colorado attorney Tomasz Stasiuk that specifically talks about the SSA's ability to deny your Appeal. The SSA will be glad to help you ask for the review, but that does not mean by any means that they will grant it.

Aside from SSA sending you a form letter denial, even if they do decide to review the ALJ decision, you may not feel that much better off. This is because often times the SSA will send your claim decision to be reviewed by the Judge that has just rejected you. If the same Judge has just rejected your claim, you would think the chances of him or her reversing that decision would be very slim. In other words, if you do not like a particular football team, chances are the next time they come to visit your home team, you will not be cheering for them.

What happens when the SSA decides to review the decision and does not send you to the same ALJ? You would think in this situation you would get a second chance at getting Social Security disability benefits, almost like having your second day in court. However, typically the SSA AC is limited in their ability to review your claim to errors in law. So then if there was an error in law does this mean you finally get disability benefits? If there was an error in law, this does not necessarily mean that you will get Social Security disability benefits unfortunately.

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