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Appeal Process

How does the appeal work?

Generally, there are four levels of social security disability appeal.

They are:

  • Reconsideration;
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge;
  • Review by the Appeals Council; and
  • Federal Court review.

1. Reconsideration

You begin the appeal by filing a Request for Reconsideration. Reconsideration is a review of your claim by Disability Determination Services. Our attorneys at Goss & Fentress can file this Request for Consideration for you to begin our representation. Just give us a call or E-mail us.

Reconsideration functions more as a quality control process than as an independent adjudication of your claim denial. Although technically, the review is conducted by a different claims examiner than the one who made the first decision, the original documentation is used, unless records are supplemented. Supplementing the medical records rarely produces a reversal of the denial. The institutional bias against awarding claims does not change.

If your claim has been denied initially, the odds are strong that this denial will not be reversed during this reconsideration process.

2. Hearing

If you disagree with the reconsideration decision, you may file an appeal with the regional administrative court system established by the United States government to hear cases involving Social Security Administration benefit claim denials.

The opportunity to have your benefit denial adjudicated by an independent judge at this court hearing is your best opportunity to win an award of benefits once you have been denied.

The hearing will be conducted by an adminis¬trative law judge who is independent of the claim process that has been discussed. This judge will review the work done by DDS in developing your claim, and the reasons that were given for deciding to deny your benefits. The judge will also accept new evidence from you, will expect you to testify in support of your case, will summon expert witnesses as appropriate to testify, and will want you to explain how the disability guidelines were improperly applied by DDS to your claim.

An experienced trial attorney will make a great deal of difference in how well your case is presented in court. How well your evidence is developed and presented generally makes the difference in whether the decision to deny your benefits will be reversed. The attorneys at Goss & Fentress have successfully represented thousands of claimants in these court proceedings.

3. Appeals Council

If you do not win your case in the administrative court, a further appeal can be filed with Social Security’s Appeals Council.

The Appeals Council looks at all requests for review, but it may deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was correct. If the Appeals Council decides to review your case, it will either decide your case itself or return it to an administrative law judge for further review.

4. Federal Court

If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision or if the Appeals Council decides not to review your case, you may file a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration in the United States District Court where you reside.

The district court will receive a copy of the administrative record and review it to see whether the administrative law judge complied with the laws and regulations, properly evaluated the evidence in your claim. This is not a new trial of your case, but is only an appellate review of the administrative proceedings. How well your case was presented to the administrative law judge at the time of your hearing is critical to having any prospect of succeeding at this level of review.

While you may have chosen to represent yourself earlier, or to have engaged the services of a non-attorney advocate for your hearing, you will have to have an attorney admitted to practice in the federal court where you reside to pursue this level of appeal.

The attorneys at Goss & Fentress have many years of experience as trial lawyers, representing those who have been denied disability benefits by the Social Security Administration. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, or complete this form for a confidential case review.