What is the Disability Appeals Council and what do they do?

The Disability Appeals Council is the third step in the appeals process for Social Security Disability benefits. This ladder rung is different because it is not designed to evaluate the merits of your case, but it is instead to determine whether the Administrative Law Judge made an error in denying your disability claim.

Usually, an appeal that is sent to the Appeals Council will result in a denied request for a review of the decision of the ALJ. But in many cases, especially if you have disability attorney representation, the Disability Appeals Council may actually conduct a complete review of the proceedings in front of the ALJ. The Council can decide that the judge made an error or did not properly consider all of your medical evidence. One of these decisions will send your case back for another hearing in front of an ALJ. The Appeals Council may also determine that the decision by the AJL was completely wrong. In this case, the Appeals Council can overturn the decision by the ALJ, and your claim for Social Security Disability benefits will be approved.

Once an appeal is sent to the Appeals Council, it is difficult to determine how much time will elapse before they rule on your Social Security Disability claim. Sometimes the decision is made as quickly as a few months, but sometimes it takes from 18 to 24 months to get a decision. If you do not agree with the decision of the Appeals Council hearing, you can request a review yourself, but normally it is done by your disability attorney.

The Appeals Council looks over all review requests, but they may deny your request if they believe the decision of the hearing was correct. When the Appeals Council reviews your disability claim, they will either decide on your case themselves, or send it to an ALJ for another review.