Social Security disability benefits offer ongoing and consistent financial support for disabled Americans and their families. These benefits pay monthly and ensure people with disabilities of all ages have what they need to cover every day bills, pay medical expenses, and meet other financial obligations.
The pursuit of disability benefits can be a long haul for many applicants though, which you no doubt know, if you’ve already been through multiple appeals. The ultimate goal of getting approved however may still be possible, but you’ll likely need assistance and must ready yourself for the next steps.
The Appeals Council Stage of Disability Reviews
After being denied benefits at an ALJ hearing, you requested your case was passed on to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Appeals Council. If you had a disability advocate or attorney advising you during the ALJ hearing, then you knew the Appeals Council doesn’t act very quickly and that denials at this stage are quite common.
The Appeals Council has the authority to handle cases in a variety of ways. They often refer a claim back to the ALJ for a review of his or her own decision on your eligibility for benefits. Unless there is compelling, new evidence you can share directly with the ALJ at this point, most reviews handled in this manner result in another denial.
Very rarely does the Appeals Council review a claim directly and award disability benefits. In fact, the Council can refuse to review a disability case at all, and instead often simply upholds the determination made by the ALJ. This unfortunately means many applicants wait for a decision, with little to no hope of approval at this stage.
Denial and Approval Rates
Appeals Council disability approvals are so uncommon that many disability attorneys and advocates advise against even waiting for a decision before taking next steps. The SSA allows applicants to file a new claim, even prior to receipt of an Appeals Council decision on the first disability case.
If your disability has worsened or you have additional evidence of your limitations, then the typical course of action is to file a new application for benefits. It’s important not to start your new claim too soon though, as doing so can just lead to another denial, more appeals, and a longer wait for benefits.
What to do if You’re Denied
If denied by the Appeals Council, you can take your claim to federal court and continue to fight for benefits. Most applicants cannot afford this kind of legal action or the delays that come with it.
You also have the option to start a new disability application at this stage. You’ll want to wait to file though until you have a stronger claim and a better chance of approval. Any worsening in your symptoms or new developments in your medical condition may be all that is necessary for the SSA to find you eligible with your next disability claim.
If you do not already have an advocate or attorney on your side, you will want to consider seeking assistance with your new application. A Social Security lawyer or advocate can help you build a strong case from the start and potentially increase your chances of winning disability this time around.