Social Security Disability: The Federal District Court Stage

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a long and stressful process. After being denied benefits at the initial stage of the application process and after the reconsideration request, Social Security Disability hearing and Appeal's Council review have all been denied, an applicant may feel that it is time to give up.

If you are truly disabled and feel that you rightfully deserve disability benefits, you should not give up at this stage in the appeals process. If your appeal to the Appeals Council is an unsuccessful one, do not give up hope. You are not alone. In fact, only 2 percent of the claims reviewed by the Appeals Council are decided in the favor of the applicant. If you are one of the applicants who fall into the other 98 percent, you should go on to file a further appeal with the Federal District Court. Be prepared for a challenging appeal!

The Social Security Disability Federal District Court Process

The Federal District Court appeals process is pursued by less than one percent of applicants. This is likely due to the fact that applicants are often confused, overwhelmed and disheartened by this stage of the Social appeals process. Understanding what to expect during the Federal District Court appeal can help alleviate the confusion and stress involved.

The first thing you should understand about the Social Security Disability Federal District Court appeal process is that you must pay a filing fee to file your appeal with the courts. If the filing fee will cause you a financial hardship, you may be able to ask the courts to waive the fee, but this request must be made in writing and there is no guarantee that the courts will grant your request to dismiss the required filing fee to file your appeal.

You also need to understand that time is of the essence when filing an appeal with the Federal District Court. You must file your request for an appeal within 60 days of receiving the Appeals Council decision. If you miss this sixty-day marker you will need to start the application process all over again. Because it has likely taken you years to get to this stage of the appeal process, starting a new Social Security Disability application from scratch is probably not in your best interest.

The appeals process at the Federal District Court level can be a very confusing and legally complicated one. Because of this it is important to have a disability lawyer representing you during the Federal District Court appeal. Your lawyer will be responsible for filing the complaint, the opening brief and the reply brief. In addition to these required documents the Federal District Court may also require an oral argument. In this case, your attorney will need to argue your case in front of a judge.

There will be no documents, evidence or testimony considered in this stage of the Social Security Disability appeal process. Once the briefs have been filed and the oral argument is over, the judge will decide the outcome of your case. At this point one of three things can happen. The judge can either:

  • Decide to uphold the decision made by the Social Security Disability Appeals Council.
  • Decide to remand your case for additional review by the Social Security Administration.
  • Decide to grant you your Social Security Disability benefits.

Approximately 70 percent of claims are denied at the Federal District Court level, with a small number of applicants actually being awarded Social Security Disability benefits by the Federal District Court. Most applicants will have their cases sent back for further investigation rather than having the claim outright approved.

The Social Security Disability Federal District Court Time Frame

Because Federal District Court judges experience very heavy workloads, it can take up to one year or more to receive a decision regarding your Federal District Court appeal. If your appeal is denied at the Federal District Court level, you can appeal to the Federal Circuit Court. Just be aware that the filing fee is very high at this level of the appeal process and your chances of being approved for Social Security Disability benefits are not in your favor. Because of this it will be crucial to have a qualified Social Security Disability attorney representing you at this stage of the appeals process.

Additional Resources