Bill Weil , December 2, 2015
You have made your way through the long disability determination process, and finally had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Unfortunately, the ALJ has denied your claim for benefits. What now? At this point, Social Security gives you a couple of choices.
First, you may appeal the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council, which is another component of SSA, located in Falls Church, VA. The appeal must be filed within 60 days of the ALJ’s decision. You don’t get another hearing at this level. Rather, the Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision, the evidence in your claim file, and legal arguments submitted by your attorney in support of the appeal. The Appeals Council will then make a new decision. It may uphold the ALJ’s decision and deny your claim again; it may reverse the ALJ’s decision and send your claim back to the ALJ with instructions to take another look at your claim, which is called a remand; or it may reverse the ALJ’s decision and award benefits directly. Because the Appeals Council handles appeals from ALJs all over the nation, it usually takes 12 to 18 months to receive a decision.
Your second option is to file a new application for benefits. Social Security no longer allows you to file an appeal and a new application at the same time, except under limited circumstances.
The best decision for you depends on several factors, including the strength of the evidence in your claim; whether you continue to be insured for the disability benefit; the ongoing state of your health; and of course any legal mistakes the ALJ may have made in denying your claim.
This decision is best made in consultation with your attorney, who is familiar with your case and can advise you as to your options.
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