The process by which Social Security disability benefits are secured can be long and frustrating, requiring several levels of appeals. With a significant number of claims denied at the initial and reconsideration level, the best opportunity for an award of benefits is at Hearing Level before an Administrative Law Judges.
Sometimes, however, even the Administrative Law Judges get it wrong, and an appeal to the Appeals Council is warranted. While simply disagreeing with the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is not sufficient for an appeal, an appeal is proper if the ALJ ignored significant medical evidence, failed to address an impairment, made a decision contrary to the law, or in any other way violated Social Security regulations. Requests for review of an ALJ decision are either granted, denied, or dismissed. If the request for review is granted, the Appeals Council will either decide the case or remand it to the ALJ for a new decision. Keep in mind that if the Appeals Council grants a review, it will review the entire decision, not just the unfavorable parts of an ALJ's decision, so an applicant should be careful when considering an appeal of a partially favorable decision as the Appeals Council could alter the favorable decision as well.
If an applicant desires to appeal a decision by an Administrative Law Judge, a representative is not necessary, but as with all appeals, it is recommended. An attorney can address the legal basis for an appeal and reversal of the ALJ's decision. With the help of an attorney, these results are possible.
Attorney Jennifer J. Allen is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C. If you have any questions about Social Security Disability, please contact her at JAllen@Employee-Advocates.com.