What to Expect at Your Federal District Appeal

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

A significant number of applications for Social Security Disability benefits are denied each year. This may come as a surprise to many potential applicants. Should an application be denied, there is the option of pursuing an appeal by attending an informal hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Should this prove unsuccessful, there may be an opportunity to appeal to an Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council returns another unfavorable decision, the person applying for Social Security Disability benefits has 60 days from the date the Appeals Council renders its decision to file an appeal in federal district court. The Social Security Administration (SSA) itself cannot be sued under federal law, but a complaint may be filed against whoever the current Social Security commissioner is and he or she will be the named defendant in the complaint. While few, if any Social Security Disability applicants approach the application process thinking they may end up in federal court, it does happen and it is important to know what you can expect.

What to Expect at Your Federal District Court Disability Appeal

Your federal district court disability appeal will begin with filing a complaint in the district court for the U.S. judicial district in which you live or have your principal place of business. There will be a filing fee associated with this. You are required to send the SSA, by certified or registered mail, copies of the complaint filed as well as the summons the court issued. The complaint itself will set forth the reason you are appealing the denial of your disability benefits. The SSA will, in turn, file a response, or an “answer,” to the complaint in which it will set forth the reasons why you were denied benefits. The SSA will also provide you and the Court with a copy of your Social Security Disability hearing transcript which should also assert the reasons the SSA believes you are not entitled to disability benefits.

There will be some back and forth between you, the plaintiff, and the SSA, after the complaint and answer are filed. Most of this will not require a court appearance, but will come in the form of written briefs submitted by the parties. The Court may, in certain instances, request an oral argument where both sides will come before the Court and present their arguments. In the end, the judge overseeing the case will render a decision.

The judge has several possible ways to rule on an SSA disability benefits appeals case. The judge may rule in your favor which essentially reverses the SSA’s decision to deny you benefits. In the alternative, the judge may choose to side with the SSA and deny you benefits. The judge also has the authority to send your case back to the SSA for further review.

Disability Attorney

Receiving a denial of your Social Security Disability benefit application can be disheartening. Being continually denied after you use the SSA’s appeals process can result in compounded anxiety and fear. Disability Advocates is here to support you at every level of the appeals process. Lean on us as we provide trusted legal counsel throughout the process. We are here to help set you up for success and access the disability benefits you seek. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.