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From the date of the Appeals Council's decision, you are given 60 days to file an appeal. To do so, you must file a civil complaint with the U.S. District Court nearest you. A civil complaint is a brief overview of both allegations and facts entailing what your case is about.
Under federal law, the Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot be sued directly. This means the defendant is whomever the current Social Security commissioner is when the complaint is filed.
The SSA cannot help you with a complaint for a federal appeal. Your options are to either file the complaint yourself or hire a disability representative or attorney experienced in appealing denials at the federal level.
What Happens After Filing A Complaint?
Once the complaint is filed, a summons will be issued by the court. You must serve both the summons and a copy of your complaint on the SSA to the Office of the General Council (OGC).
After the SSA has been served, an attorney for the SSA will file an answer explaining why the ALJ and AC were correct in denying your claim. From here, you'll have to file an opening brief.
What Is An Opening Brief?
The first brief filed in an SSA appeal is called the opening brief. This brief aims to convince the federal judge that the ALJ did not properly consider the evidence or make their decision in accordance with the law. The opening brief does not allow for the submission of new evidence.
The opening brief is crucial in the federal appeals process. A disability representative or attorney who is experienced in written federal appeals briefs is highly recommended.
What Happens After Filing An Opening Brief?
After the brief is filed, the SSA has the opportunity to file a response brief. This is the SSA’s chance to explain why the ALJ’s decision was correct. You may then file a reply brief, which is your final opportunity to defend your position and expose flaws in the SSA’s argument. Rarely, the court will schedule in-person arguments.
Once the briefs have been filed and the in-person arguments have concluded, the federal judge will make a decision and issue a written opinion. It is important to note that this process can take at least a full year.
How Will The Judge Make Their Decision?
The judge may decide to do any of the following:
Remand the case: A federal judge may remand, or send back, a claim to the ALJ for reconsideration. This means the judge has directed the ALJ to review issues and factors that were not originally fully considered. It is not unusual for a remanded case to be approved by an ALJ, as they will be wary of making a decision that may ultimately be overturned by a federal judge.
Affirm the ALJ's decision: If the federal judge agrees with the previous ruling by the ALJ and AC, you will be denied your disability benefits. This denial can be appealed to the Federal Circuit Court; however, this process is more difficult and more expensive.
Reverse the ALJ's decision: If the federal judge agrees with your position, the ALJ’s opinion will be overturned and you will be awarded disability benefits.
If you are looking to file an appeal in Federal Court, look no further. Our team of experienced representatives will ensure you have the best chance of being awarded your benefits. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.