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What happens if I am denied disability benefits at the Administrative Hearing?

If you have waited months for your Social Security Administrative Hearing the last thing you want to consider is another denial. Although the Social Security Administrative Hearing is generally a claimant’s best chance to win benefits and share their story with an objective judge who has the authority to award Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, many claimants are denied at this level.

So what if you are denied at the Social Security Disability hearing? What is your next step?

Should I appeal my disability claim to the Appeals Council?

Most claimants may automatically try to appeal their case to the Appeals Council if they are denied at the Administrative Hearing level, but many SSDI and SSI disability lawyers are reluctant to take cases to the Appeals level unless they can prove one of the following:

• There was an error in law and the Administrative Law Judge misapplied a certain standard.
• The Administrative Law Judge’s actions, findings or conclusions cannot be supported by substantial evidence.
• There is a broad police of procedural issue which might affect the public or general interest.

Most of the cases at this Appeals Council level deal with error in law, and under most conditions, the Appeals Council will send the disability case back to the hearing level for a second review by the Administrative Law Judge.

Appealing to the Appeals Council

What if your disability lawyer is willing to make an appeal to the Appeals Council, how do you know if it is a good idea?

First, it is important to understand how long you may have to wait for the council to review your case. According to the Social Security Administration, from 10/2009-9/2010 they received 128,703 requests for review. From 10/2009-9/2010 they processed 102,062 cases. So how long can you expect to wait for your Appeals Council review? It can take an average of 345 days.

The SSA does provide several steps for expediting the Appeals Council review on their website (

• Make sure you request review within 60 days after you receive the Social Security Disability hearing decision. If you are unable to meet this deadline, explain your reasons for missing it in your request.
• Submit any additional evidence and/or comments you have with the request for the Appeals Council review.
• You and your Social Security Disability lawyer or disability advocate should make requests for copies of the hearing recordings and exhibits only if you really need these items for your appeal.
• We request that you do not make automatic, multiple requests for the status of your request for review. You can verify that the Appeals Council has received the request through your local Social Security office, local hearing office or by calling our Congressional and Public Affairs Branch staff (1-703-605-8000) or our general inquiries staff at our toll-free telephone number (1-800-772-1213).

Requesting a review with the Appeals Council

Keep in mind, the Appeal Council operates more like the Supreme Court than the Administrative Law Judge. Although they will review requests for hearings, they have the legal right to: 1) look at the request and decide the decision was accurate and refuse to review your SSI or SSDI case; 2) review the case themselves; or 2) remand your disability case back to the Administrative Law Judge who initially reviewed the Social Security Disability case and made the denial decision.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits a Second Time

Given the length of the Appeals Council process, many claimants decide to simply re-file their case a second time. My advice, do not file again without first understanding the disability process.

Do you understand how the SSA makes their disability determination decision? Do you know what information is in your medical records? Do you know your functional limitations to work? Do you know what went wrong the first time you applied? Do you know how to improve your chances to win a second time? If not, it is time to talk to Social Security Disability lawyer.

Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer

If you would like a disability attorney to review your claim you can fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability advocate will call you to review your claim or you can call our office at 1-800-641-3759 to talk to someone now.