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How Do I Appeal My Disability Case in Federal District Court?

August 4, 2021

federal district court judge

If you do not agree with the Appeals Council’s decision, or the Appeals Council decided not to review your disability case, you have the right to file a civil complaint in Federal District Court. This is the final level of the appeals process. A federal judge will either remand the case or affirm or reverse the previous ruling.

Read on to learn more about the Federal Court appeals process and why you should consider having a qualified attorney representing you. No one should give up on the disability benefits they need. Our firm offers free and confidential consultations. We charge nothing up front to retain our legal services.

Here 24/7 to take your call: 1-800-503-2000

Federal District Court Appeals Process

Appealing a disability case in Federal Court can only be done if you have already been denied benefits before a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ) and after requesting an Appeals Council review.

A civil complaint must be filed with the U.S. District Court in your area within 60 days from the date of the Appeals Council’s decision. If you miss this deadline, you will need to file a new claim for disability benefits. It could take years to get to this appeals process level so you do not want to jeopardize it.

A decision made in your disability case is no longer in the hands of the Social Security Administration (SSA). This means that the SSA will be unable to assist you in filing a civil complaint in Federal Court.

Hiring an attorney with experience handling disability denials is your best chance for success. The appeals process at the Federal District Court level can be lengthy and complex for claimants. The risk of getting a complaint dismissed is too great if you choose to appeal your disability case on your own.  

Is There a Filing Fee Involved?

Yes, there is a fee to file your appeal in Federal Court. If you are unable to pay this filing fee, you may be able to ask the courts to waive the fee. Your attorney can submit the written request on your behalf.

Although there is no guarantee that this court fee will be waived, most law firms – including Dayes Law Firm – work on a contingency fee basis. We understand the financial hardships disability claimants often experience. If you have a valid case, there are no upfront legal fees to have us represent you and no fees while we work on your disability case. We only get paid if we help you obtain disability benefits.

Once You Have Filed the Complaint

The court will issue a summons once the complaint has been filed. You are required to send the SSA – by certified or registered mail – a copy of the complaint and the summons issued. The SSA will then file an answer to the complaint briefly detailing why the ALJ and Appeals Council denied your disability case.  

The SSA will issue you and the court a copy of your Social Security Disability hearing transcript to further support the reasons the SSA thinks that you are not eligible to receive disability benefits.   

In order to explain your position in detail to the court, you will be required to submit a written brief.  

Written Briefs and Other Requirements

In an SSA appeal, the first brief filed is known as the opening brief. The purpose of the brief is to persuade the federal judge that the ALJ and Appeals Council did not properly take into consideration the medical evidence or make their decision in accordance with the law. No new evidence can be submitted.

The opening brief is critical in the federal appeals process. Our Social Security Disability attorneys in Phoenix are well-versed in writing federal appeals briefs.

The SSA then has the chance to file a response brief. This brief allows the SSA to explain why the ALJ’s and Appeals Council’s ruling was valid. Your attorney can help you file a reply brief, giving you one last chance to defend your disability case and reveal any errors in the SSA’s dispute.

The federal judge at this point will issue a decision, usually accompanied by an opinion explaining the rationale. In some rare cases, the court may ask for an oral argument. Your attorney can help argue your disability case in front of a judge. Generally, the entire process can take at least a year.

How the Federal Judge Makes a Decision

The federal judge may do one of three things:

  • Decide to remand the case – He or she may remand or send back a disability case for the ALJ to reconsider. The federal judge will direct the ALJ to examine factors and issues that were not fully considered beforehand. Getting a remanded case approved by an ALJ is not unusual.
  • Affirm the previous ruling – Your disability case will be denied should the federal judge side with the ALJ’s and Appeals Council’s previous ruling. This decision could be appealed in Federal Circuit Court, but the process will be more challenging and result in greater court fees.
  • Reverse the previous ruling – Should the federal judge side with you, he or she will overturn the ALJ’s and Appeals Council’s ruling and decide to award you Social Security Disability benefits.

Call Our Firm for Help with the Appeals Process

Appealing a denied disability case at any level can be stressful and time-consuming, but our firm is here to help. We are prepared to file the civil complaint, the opening brief and reply brief on your behalf.

A consultation with a member of our legal team is 100 percent free without any obligations involved. It costs nothing to get answers to your questions and learn more about your rights as a disability claimant.

Call 1-800-503-2000 to get started today.

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