Being approved for Social Security disability benefits – including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not automatic. In fact, in 2019, just 34.5% of all applications for disability benefits were approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Fortunately, there are four levels of appeal, from a request for reconsideration to an appeal of a final decision to a federal district court.
Winning a federal court case can be challenging, but it is possible with the help of a skilled Social Security Disability attorney. Your lawyer will review the entire record, including your medical records, work history information, and other evidence to support your disability claim. They will then make an argument to the court as to why your disability application should be granted, or more specifically, why the Administrative Law Judge got it wrong.
At Bross & Frankel, we have substantial experience handling all phases of the Social Security disability appeals process. While many Social Security disability attorneys do not take cases to federal court, we do. If your initial application is denied, we will advocate for you to get the benefits that you deserve. Reach out today to schedule a free claim review with a Social Security disability lawyer.
The Appeals Process
- Request for Reconsideration, which involves asking the SSA to reconsider the decision that they rendered on your application.
- Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) if you disagree with the SSA’s response to your request for reconsideration.
- Appeals Council Review, if you disagree with the ALJ’s decision.
- Federal District Court review
Going to federal court is the last step in the process. It is essentially a civil action filed against the SSA that you can only file after all other appeal options have been exhausted. At this stage, you are asking a federal court to review your case file and find it in your favor.
The federal court review process starts with your disability lawyer filing a complaint against the SSA in court. A complaint is a legal document that outlines your disagreement with the government’s decision, and requests for the court to find in your favor. Once the complaint has been filed, lawyers for the SSA will have an opportunity to respond by filing an answer.
In support of the federal court case, your attorney will review:
- All claim letter denials
- Your initial application for disability benefits
- New and existing medical evidence
- New and existing financial information
As part of the government’s answer to the Complaint, it will submit a copy of the Administrative Record, an exhibited and marked file containing all of the evidence relied on by the Administrative Law Judge, and contained in your file prior to the final decision by SSA. Once the complaint has been answered, your lawyer will write a brief setting forth the facts and argument supporting your appeal. The government will have an opportunity to respond, and then a reply may be filed if needed.
In some cases, the judge will be able to make a decision based solely on the documents alone. However, the court may also schedule oral arguments. During oral arguments, each party’s attorney will have a chance to make an argument about why your disability claim should or should not be approved. Your lawyer will discuss your medical condition or mental impairment and explain how you qualify for benefits under current law.
Going to federal court for a Social Security disability review is rare. Especially a social security disability review after age 50. Most cases are either decided at the initial application level or at one of the lower appeals levels, and many attorneys choose not to pursue cases to this final stage of appeal. That being said, it may be necessary to ask a federal court to intervene if the SSA refuses to grant your application for benefits.
What to Expect at Federal Review
As with any other court case, going to federal court for a file review can be a costly, time-intensive process. It may take a year or longer to get a decision on your appeal. Unless you qualify for a waiver, you may also be required to pay a filing fee (this fee is paid directly to the court, not your attorney).
In almost all cases, you will not be required to go to court. Most of the “arguing” will be done with written briefs submitted by your lawyer and the attorney for the SSA. If the court schedules an oral argument, then both attorneys will argue the case before the federal judge. Once all briefs have been filed and any oral arguments made, the judge will issue a ruling.
There are 3 potential outcomes of a federal court appeal:
- The court may send your file back to Social Security for additional review;
- The court may decide to award you Social Security disability benefits; or
- The court may deny your case and uphold the unfavorable decision, which effectively ends the appeals process.
If your disability claim is approved, then you don’t need to take any further steps. You will start to receive a monthly payment. You will also likely receive a lump sum of “back pay,” which are payments for the period in which you were disabled but had not yet been approved by the SSA.
If the court sends your case back to the Appeals Council for Social Security to take further review, then your disability attorney will prepare your case for a new hearing in most cases. This may include submitting any new or additional evidence about your disability.
Finally, if the federal court denies your claim review, then it may be possible to file a second appeal with a higher-level court (federal circuit court). However, this may not be the best option for you based on the facts of your case. An experienced Social Security disability attorney can help you understand your rights and the best options for pursuing a claim.
Winning a federal court review is difficult, but it is possible. A lawyer can put together evidence to prove that you meet the medical criteria to be considered disabled under SSA rules. They will also gather proof that you meet the basic work credit requirements or income limits for SSDI and/or SSI. Working with a seasoned disability benefits attorney is the best way to successfully appeal a denial of disability benefits.
How Bross & Frankel Can Help
When you are unable to work due to a disability, you will likely need support to provide you with financial stability. Unfortunately, getting approved for benefits can be challenging. Our law firm can help you through the process.
The attorneys of Bross & Frankel have helped thousands of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania get the benefits that they are entitled to under the law. We represent individuals at all phases of the Social Security process, from filing an initial application to appealing a denial up to the federal court level. To learn more, give us a call at 866-860-5623 or fill out our online contact form.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Federal Court Review?
You are not required to hire a lawyer to appeal a Social Security disability denial. However, having legal representation is the best way to get a favorable outcome – particularly at the federal court level. There are many technical rules that must be followed during the appeals process, and complex legal arguments that must be made to support your claim. In most cases, an attorney cannot submit new evidence at the Federal Court level, so the attorney has to be confident that they can make winning arguments based on the record that was already developed. This is also why many attorneys want the chance to be involved earlier in the process.
Social Security disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they are paid a percentage of your recovery (which is capped by law). If you don’t win your case, they will not be paid a fee. If you win in federal court, the government may have to pay some portion of the attorney’s fees for the work done at the court level. Reach out to Bross & Frankel today to schedule a free claim review.
Should I Appeal My SSDI/SSI Denial?
Many Social Security disability claims are denied for very basic reasons, like a failure to submit the right paperwork or to have enough supporting documentation. If your claim has been denied, it is usually a good idea to file an appeal. A Social Security disability lawyer can review your case file and advise you of your rights and options for pursuing an appeal.
The best way to increase the likelihood of winning at any stage of the appeals process is by working with a skilled attorney. Your lawyer will analyze your claim against federal law to put together the strongest possible argument for benefits. They will also explain what you can do to strengthen your case, such as continuing treatment for your medical condition or mental impairment.