The majority of people who apply for Social Security disability benefits get denied on their initial application. They have to go through one or more levels of the appeals process to finally receive the benefits they deserve. After they exhaust the administrative appeals, their option for relief is to file a case in federal court.
If you find yourself in this position, you need to know what happens at a federal court disability review. A Texas disability attorney can advocate for you at any stage of the original application, appeal, or review process to help you go after your Social Security disability benefits.
How Does the Federal Court Review Process Work?
The Appeals Council is the final level of administrative review. If you are unhappy with the decision of the Appeals Council, your only option is to file an appeal in federal district court, challenging the denial of or the number of benefits awarded to you.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will need to file your civil lawsuit in the federal district court where you live or have your principal place of business. You must send the Social Security Administration copies of your complaint and the summons the district court issues for your case. You will need to follow the rules for serving those papers on the correct SSA office for your case.
Your federal district court lawsuit must get filed within 60 days after you receive notice of the unfavorable decision of the Appeals Council of the SSA review process. The Office of Appellate Operations will prepare the certified record of your claim for the federal district court.
The court will assign your lawsuit to a federal district judge who will evaluate whether the SSA made any mistakes when denying your application for benefits or calculated the wrong amount of benefits. It is essential that you can articulate the specific error or errors the SSA made and at which levels of appeal.
The federal district court does not rule on whether you are disabled. The federal judge will only determine:
- Whether the SSA followed the procedural rules, and
- Whether the SSA made any errors when denying your claim or awarding the amount of benefits
You and your disability lawyer are not allowed to introduce any new evidence at the federal court level.
What Are the Stages of Review I Have to Go Through Before I Can File an Appeal in Federal Court?
When you complete and submit your application for disability benefits, the SSA will make a decision about whether you qualify for benefits, and how much your monthly benefits check will be. If you disagree with the SSA’s decision, you have 60 days to file an appeal, starting with the date on which you received the decision letter from the SSA. The first level of appeal is the Request for Reconsideration.
If you are unhappy with the decision about your Request for Reconsideration, you can ask the SSA to have an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hear and review your case. If the ALJ issues an unfavorable decision, you could ask the Appeals Council of the SSA to hear the case. If the Appeals Council refuses to hear your case or denies your claim for benefits, only then can you take your case to federal court. A Texas disability attorney can explain your rights and help you fight for the benefits for which you qualify. Contact our office for a free consultation.