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Appeals Council won't take my case- What next?

Recently on our disability forum we had a disability applicant ask what options they have if the Appeals Council refuses to hear their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) case. This question can only be asked by someone who has been waiting for answers for many months and may be in a desperate situation. This blog will address their options.

Appeals Council- Who are they?

The Appeals Council is kind of like the Supreme Court of the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Appeals Council is a three member body, and it was established in March 1, 1940. They are the last step within the Social Security appeals process, and if yourequest a review from the Appeals Council they may grant, deny or dismiss a review for request. They can also remand the case back to the Administrative Law Judge and have them review the case again.

In 2011, there were 173,000 cases filed for review by the Appeals Council and the Appeals Council approved benefits for approximately 2% of those cases.

According to the SSA, the Appeals Council was created to, “Promote national consistency in hearing decisions made by referees (now Administrative Law Judges) and ensure that the Social Security Administration’s Board (now the Commissioner’s) records were adequate for judicial review.”

What if the Appeals Council won’t take my SSDI case?

If the Appeals Council refuses to take your SSDI case you have two options: file a federal district court case or restart the SSDI application a second time and file a new application. Let’s take a look at each option a bit more closely.

1.      Filing a case in Federal Court

Civil actions must befiled within 60 days from the date you receive the notifications of the Appeals Council decision. All requests must be filed in the court that serves your judicial district. You will be required to pay a filing fee. Claimants who cannot afford the fee may be able to request that the fee is waived. If you have missed the filing deadline there are exemptions allowed by the SSA. Contact the SSA or a disability lawyer if you have questions about a civil case.

2.      File another SSDI application

If the Appeals Council refuses to hear your case or denies your SSDI claim you can file a civil case in Federal district court or you can simply start the process again from the very beginning. This obviously is a tough decision. Generally, if you have gone through the entire disability process and you have exhausted all of your appeals you have waited potentially years. If you are not working and you are not married (or even if you are) you may be in a very desperate situation.

The main issue if you do decide to file another claim is the potential loss of back pay. While you have been waiting back pay has been accumulating. Starting another claim generally means that back pay will only be generated from the date of the most recent application date.

Talk to a Disability Lawyer

Hopefully if you are at this level you have already worked with a disability lawyer, but they obviously have not been able to help you. You have the option to continue to work with the same disability lawyer or if you feel that you have not been adequately represented than you may be able to find another lawyer to help you with your second SSDI case.

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