There are five levels to the appeals process for a denied Social Security disability claim. If you have already appeared before the Appeals Council and your claim was still denied, the next step is the federal court. If you are planning to appeal to the court, here is what you need to know.
How Is an Appeal Filed?
After the Appeals Council rejects your claim, you have 60 days to file an appeal with the federal court. You have to submit a complaint, or brief summary of the facts, to the court to request an appeal.
Legally. You cannot file your claim against the Social Security Administration, or SSA. In your complaint, you have to cite the commissioner of the agency instead. As of January 2016, the acting commissioner is Carolyn W. Colvin, which means she will need to be listed as the defendant in your appeal.
The appeal needs to be filed at the nearest federal district court in your area. Once the complaint is filed, a summons will be issued. It is your responsibility to serve the summons. You can take the summons and a copy of your complaint to the nearest Office of the General Counsel.
Once the agency responds to the claims made by you in the complaint
What Should Be in the Brief?
The legal brief needs to explain why you are entitled to receive disability benefits. It also needs to provide a detailed analysis of the previous decisions made by the SSA, administrative law judge, and Appeals Council. For instance, if you felt that the administrative law judge failed to take into account all of your medical records and this led to a denial of benefits, state that in the brief.
After you complete the brief, file it with the federal court. The SSA will receive a copy of your brief from the court and the agency will receive a deadline for responding to your brief.
What Happens Next?
You will have one final chance to make your case after the SSA responds. It is possible that the court will schedule an in-person hearing, but it is doubtful.
Once the judge reviews your briefs and the responses from the SSA, a decision will be made. The judge can choose to award or deny your benefits. He or she can also opt to send your case back to the administrative law judge to reconsider.
Since the brief is a crucial element of your case, it is important to work with someone who has experience with writing them. Consult with an attorney to get help with this step of the appeals process and to determine your next moves in the event your claim is denied or remanded to the administrative law judge.