Adam was exhausted. Not only was he suffering from a serious illness that prevented him from working, but he had also been battling with the Social Security Administration for months. His initial claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits had been denied, so he appealed. Denied at each stage of the appeal process, Adam continued to pursue his SSDI claim. He had finally reached the final step in a long appeal process: federal court review. What will happen next?
The Fate of Most SSDI Applicants
According to the SSA’s 2016 statistics, more than 10 million people received disability benefits. However, another statistic is important to our discussion: the number of applications that were denied:
Between 2006 and 2015, the denial rate was 62 percent.
Less than half of applicants received benefits at the initial claim level.
The majority of applicants either quit trying to get SSDI benefits or appealed their denial to the next level.
The Initial Stages of an Appeal
An applicant who wishes to continue pursuing their SSDI claim can ask for a reconsideration of their denial. If rejected at this step, the applicant can ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ may also deny the claim. At this point, the applicant can ask the Appeals Council to hear their SSDI claim. In some cases, the Appeals Council will refuse to even consider the appeal. This is when the final step begins.
The Federal Court Review
As a last resort, an applicant may file a complaint in the appropriate United States District Court. Basically, the complaint sues the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration asking for a federal court review of the plaintiff’s SSDI claim.
A federal judge is assigned to the case. The judge will review the SSDI claim, looking for any errors made by the SSA. During the course of the appeal, the applicant’s attorney will argue that the SSDI claim should be approved. Of course, the SSA will argue the opposite.
After reviewing the evidence and arguments made, the judge will render a decision. The federal judge will usually send the claim back to the SSA for reconsideration or approve the claim outright.
Note that the judge may not allow any new evidence regarding a disability claim. However, the judge usually will consider:
- the ALJ’s decision on the SSDI claim, and
- whether the SSA followed the law and its own procedures when it denied the claim.
Throughout the appeal process, remember to read correspondence from the court and forward it to your attorney.
Do You Know How to Handle a Federal Court Review?
Probably not. That’s why it is crucial to have an experienced disability attorney working on your claim from the beginning.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Martin Taller have helped many clients receive the disability benefits they deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 714-385-8100. Though our office is located in Anaheim, we assist clients throughout Southern California.