Of the millions of applications received by the Social Security Administration (SSA) each year, only 30% are approved at the initial stage of the application process. What happens to the remaining 70%? If you choose to move forward in order to receive Social Security Disability benefits, you must appeal the decision that was made during this initial stage. This is why understanding the application and appeal process can make this process of applying for benefits clearer and less stressful.
If you have been going through the long and tedious process of appealing your denied claim and you have also been denied at the hearing stage (Stage 3) of the appeal process, you still have a chance. The next stage of the appeal process is to go before the Appeals Council in hopes of having your Social Security Disability claim approved or at least looked at one more time.
Let’s look at how we arrived at this stage, Appeals Council, Appeal #3:
- Your initial application request was denied, which happens to about 70% of the applications.
- You asked for a reconsideration, 1st Appeal, and it was denied, which is usually the case (about 85 -90% get rejected at this stage).
- You then asked for and received a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) – the 2nd appeal in the process. The ALJ hearing results in approval for benefits for about 2/3rds of all disability claimants who follow the appeal process to the hearing level.
- If you were in the 1/3rd group at the 2nd appeal stage that did not get approved, you will now find yourself at Stage 4, the 3rd appeal and Appeals Council. This is the last level of appeal before you have exhausted the appeals process through the SSA.
A few facts about this stage, The Appeals Council, of the disability claims process:
- When denied at the hearing stage, you have 60 days to ask for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council.
- The average time it takes to process an appeal with the Social Security Disability Appeals Council can be anywhere from six months to one year.
- There is no guarantee that your appeal will even be heard for review. The Appeals Council does not review every case brought before it.
- Only about 3% of the cases at this level are approved. So based on the low odds of having your case even reviewed, the odds are just as low to have your case approved.
- The council does not review your actual disability claim. It only reviews the legality of the decision by the administrative law judge. In most cases, the Appeals Council will simply send you a letter stating that the appeal has been denied and will uphold the decision made by the administrative law judge.
- The Appeals Council can decide to send your case back for another hearing or overturn the decision made by the administrative law judge and approve your SSD claim, if the Appeals Council finds:
o The judge had made a technical error when reviewing your case, or
o The judge failed to consider valid medical evidence during your Social Security Disability hearing, or
o The decision made by the administrative law judge was made completely in error.
- An appeal at this stage can be handled by you alone but claimants who request an appeal at this level without a lawyer’s help are most often denied.
After the long wait and your case gets denied at this stage, you will need to go on to file another appeal with the Federal District Court. This entails filing a lawsuit at the Federal Court level. If you do not yet have an attorney representing you in your disability claim, you should retain one for this portion of your Social Security Disability appeals process.