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Social Security Appeals Council Review

Appealing the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) decision about your benefits consists of four stages.  The first two stages are Reconsideration and an Administrative Law Hearing.  If you disagree with the first two decisions, you can request an Appeals Council Review. 

What Is The Appeals Council?

The Appeals Council is comprised of judges and officers who handle over 135,000 cases per year.  As the last SSA appeals stage, the Appeals Council’s decision is the final ruling by the SSA (but not the final appeal in the process). 

How Do I Request An Appeals Council Review?

You must contact the SSA within 60 days of receiving the Administrative Law Hearing decision.  If your appeal is not filed on time, you risk having your claim dismissed.

Should I Do Anything Before Submitting My Request For Review?

You and your representative, if you choose to have one, should review the Administrative Law Hearing decision to see if there is anything with which you disagree.  Requests for hearing tapes and exhibits may be made, and you should be preparing to provide any additional evidence or comments you have when you submit your request for a review. 

What Does The Appeals Council Do?

The Appeals Council will review your case, examine any new evidence you provide, and look at the issues considered by the judge.  They will grant, deny, or dismiss your claim.  If your case is:

  • Denied:  The Council agrees with the Administrative Law Hearing decision.
  • Granted:  The Council will rule on your claim or return your case with instructions to your hearing judge.  The judge will make a new decision and possibly hold a new hearing.

When Can I Expect To Be Contacted?

The Appeals Council will send you a letter which will explain their decision.  If you still disagree with the SSA decision, you may file a suit in Federal Court. 

Do I Need A Lawyer?

If your appeal has been denied at the Reconsideration and Administrative Law Hearing stages, you should consult with an attorney or claimant's representative - one experienced in Social Security appeals - as soon as possible.  Because the Appeals Council Review is the last stage of your appeal within the SSA, this will be the best time to get the benefits to which you believe you are entitled.
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