Social Security appeals process – Appeals Council

Today completes the Social Security Administration appeals process series. Whether a person is applying for benefits or already receiving them, nearly all Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim decisions can be appealed. Disability related actions are a major area for appeals now but other topics can be at issue. Basics of the appeal process are the same for Social Security retirement, survivors and disability benefits as well as the separate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  

Appeals Council Review:  the third level of appeal  

To reach this point, a person disagrees with both the original decision and the first two appeals process levels of reconsideration and hearing. If you disagree with the hearings decision of the Administrative Law Judge, you may file a request for review with the Appeals Council.  

Consistent with the other levels of appeal, stay within the timeframes provided in your decision letter if using the Social Security appeals process. The general rule is that you must make your request in writing within 60 days from the date you receive the decision letter. The assumption is that that you received the decision letter five days after the date on the letter.  

Local Social Security offices are not directly involved with cases involving a request for Appeals Council review.  Based in Falls Church, Virginia, the Appeals Council is a component of the SSA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), one of the largest administrative judicial systems in the world.  

The Appeals Council looks at all requests for review, but it may deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was correct. If the Appeals Council decides to review your case, it will either decide your case itself or return it to an Administrative Law Judge for further review. When the Appeals Council reviews your case it may consider any of the issues considered by the Administrative Law Judge, including those issues that were favorably decided in your case. You receive a copy of the Appeals Council’s final action on your case. 

More about a Social Security Appeals Council review is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/appeals/appeals_process.html.  

As the last administrative decisional level, the Appeals Council renders the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) final decision. If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, or if the Appeals Council decides not to review your case, you would then have to go to the last level of the appeals process, filing civil suit in a federal district court.  

The entire Social Security Administration appeals process is summarized in SSA publication 05-10041, “The Appeals Process” at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10041.html.  

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