For Social Security disability claimants deep in the appeals process, a Social Security Disability Hearing in federal court is the last stop on the road to obtaining disability benefits. After a claimant is either denied review or denied benefits by the Appeals Council, the claimant may appeal further by filing a civil suit in federal court to be heard before a U.S. District Court judge.
How to appeal to federal court
After a claimant receives a negative result from the Appeals Council, he or she only has a certain amount of time to file an action in federal court. The civil action filed by a disability claimant will be filed in the district court for the judicial district where the claimant lives or has a principal place of business.
If the Appeals Council denied the claimant benefits or refused to hear the claimant’s case, the claimant has 60 days from the date he or she received the denial to appeal. If the Appeals Council sent the claimant’s case back to an administrative law judge for rehearing (ALJ) and the ALJ again denied the claimant benefits, the claimant has 65 days from the date on the ALJ’s denial form to appeal.
Review in federal court
The appeals process at the federal court level can be confusing and complicated. As a result, it is important for disability claimants to have an experienced disability lawyer to represent them.
First, the disability claimant’s lawyer will file a “complaint,” which begins the lawsuit and outlines the claimant’s reasoning in appealing the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) decision to deny his or her disability benefits. The lawsuit is filed against the SSA because the claimant is essentially suing the SSA for denying him or her benefits. Once the complaint is filed, the SSA’s lawyer will file a response called an “answer,” which outlines why the SSA believes the claimant is not entitled to benefits.
The district court judge assigned to the claimant’s case will then review the documents and may make a decision based on the documents alone. In some cases, the judge may request oral argument to take place, which requires the claimant or his lawyer to argue the case before the judge.
At the hearing, the claimant’s disability attorney will argue the reasons why the claimant should be granted disability benefits. The attorney will talk about the claimant’s medical condition, and will cite current laws that can help the claimant get the benefits he or she needs. The SSA’s attorney will also have the opportunity to argue why the claimant should not be granted benefits.
Once oral argument is complete, the judge will decide the outcome of the claimant’s case based on the evidence he or she has heard. The judge will make one of three possible decisions:
(1) the judge could uphold the decision made by the Appeals Council;
(2) the judge could remand the case for additional review by the Social Security Administration; or
(3) the judge could grant the claimant disability benefits.
Should I appeal my case to federal court?
The thought of taking your case to federal court can seem overwhelming, especially to those who have not had much experience in a courtroom. However, being brave and moving your appeal forward to the federal court stage can be extremely beneficial for claimants. Of all the levels of the SSD appeals process, review in federal court is by far the most successful stage for claimants as over 81 percent of people are approved for disability benefits in federal court.
Keep in mind, however, two important things. First, the federal court stage of appeals may cost you money, as there are filing fees with the court system to file a civil suit. Second, the federal appeals process can be lengthy as civil suits take time and federal judges have very heavy workloads. As a result, it can take up to a year or more to receive a decision regarding your appeal.