How a Federal Court Review of Your Social Security Disability Case Works

gavel close-upInitially, about 66 percent of all Social Security disability claims are rejected by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Of those claimants, about five percent will gain approval for their claim after a Request for Consideration. Two out of three applicants who go on to the second level of appeal—the administrative law judge hearing level—will win their appeals and secure benefits. The remaining claimants can go on to the Appeals Council, but only two or three percent will win their cases there.

What happens to the remaining disability benefits applicants who can’t get benefits? Those who receive an unfavorable decision from the Appeals Council and those who cannot get their case heard by the Appeals Council have one option left: federal court review. This occurs in about one in one hundred Social Security disability claims.

What You Need to Know About Appealing in Federal Court

Before you file your case, you should know that:

  • About one out of three federal court decisions are in favor of the disabled claimant.
  • The federal court review can often be the most lengthy and expensive part of the appeals process.
  • Federal court reviews are not as focused on the question of whether you are disabled or whether or not your disability prevents you from earning a living wage. Instead they are focused on whether the SSA made an error while processing your claim.
  • You have 60 days to appeal to the federal court level after your case is denied by the Appeals Council.
  • To start your case, you file a civil complaint with the United States District Court against the current Social Security commissioner.
  • You will be issued a summons by the court, which you must serve at the Office of the General Council. In response, the SSA will file an answer.
  • With the help of an attorney, you will file a brief—a legal document that reviews the evidence in your case and explains to the judge why you believe the SSA wrongfully denied your disability claim.
  • The SSA files a response brief that explains why they believe they made the right decision in denying your claim.
  • The federal court review puts the decision in the hands of a federal judge—your case will not be heard by a jury.
  • Your judge will affirm the decision of the administrative law judge, reverse the decision of the administrative law judge, or send the case back to be reviewed by an administrative law judge.
  • If you haven’t already hired an experienced disability attorney to help you with your Social Security case, you probably need legal representation at this point in your appeals process.

The best way to understand whether a federal court review is the best option for your case is to speak with a knowledgeable disability benefits attorney about your appeal. At Morgan & Weisbrod, we can review the details of your case and help you understand whether appealing at the federal level and filing a lawsuit against the SSA would be the right choice for you and your family. Please contact us today to learn more.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law