WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I WAS DENIED DISABILITY BENEFITS BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE?
If you are denied Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits at a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you have two options if you feel that you are unable to work and should continue to pursue benefits.
You can either:
- Appeal the claim to another body within the Social Security Administration called the Appeals Council
- You can file a new claim for benefits.
There are many factors to weigh when deciding if an appeal or a new application is appropriate for your claim.
An appeal is filed with the Appeals Council, which is a group of Administrative Law Judges who oversee and review the disability decisions made by your local judges. Generally the Appeals Council is very conservative in evaluating whether or not the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who heard your claim made a mistake and they generally do not grant benefits, but issue remands which direct the prior Administrative Law Judge to hold another hearing and reevaluate specific evidence. They will only do this when it is clear that the findings or conclusions of the ALJ were not supported by the evidence that was presented at the hearing or if there is evidence that was ignored. Usually, if the medical evidence or medical records can support either an allowance or denial of benefits the Appeals Council will not disturb the ALJ’s decision.
When deciding if you should appeal your claim it is important to know that you must file a form and arguments within 60 days from the date on your denial of benefits. Failure to appeal within the 60 day time frame precludes you from receiving benefits under your current application. Any benefits you receive on a later application would have to begin after the date of the ALJ denial. Also, it is important to know that the appeals process can be very long, nationwide the average processing time for an appeal is slightly over a year as of June of 2020. Please be aware that you cannot file a new claim for benefits while an appeal is pending. Finally, the Appeals Council has a very low rate of claims that they return to an ALJ for another hearing. In 2017 and 2018 the Appeals Council denied approximately 85% of the requests for review they evaluated.
There are two situations where an appeal is generally necessary. The first is for claimants who have not worked for a prolonged period of time and their right to Social Security Disability benefits has expired. In that case, an appeal is the only way to preserve the potential to receive the benefits. Also, if there was evidence or medical records that were not provided to the ALJ at your hearing, an appeal is usually the better option.
If you determine that an appeal is not the best means of pursuing your claim and you remain insured for benefits, you can file a new application for benefits at any time. Often a new claim for benefits will allow time to get additional evidence or medical opinions which more clearly document your disability.
Being denied benefits by an ALJ after a long weight for a hearing is always very frustrating. It is important to talk to the attorney who represented you at your hearing to discuss the pros and cons of filing an appeal vs. filing a new application for benefits. Match and Farnsworth have the years of expertise to help you identify your best course of action. Give us a call today.