Social Security’s Four Levels of Appeal

Social Security Disability's Four Levels of Appeal in Alexandria VA

There are generally four appeal levels where we can help you win the disability benefits you deserve.

1. Request for Reconsideration

If your initial application for Social Security disability benefits is denied, we can submit additional evidence by completing a Disability Report Appeal. Your application will then be reviewed by someone other than the official who turned you down. Legal representation is important at this stage of the appeal process.

2. Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) 

If you were denied at the Reconsideration level, we can have your case evaluated at a hearing by an ALJ. At this point, Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates will provide evidence from your doctors along with any additional medical evidence and work history. Social Security may have expert witnesses.  Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates will have the opportunity to cross-examine them. The preparation of your case and your testimony is very important at an ALJ.

3. Review by the Appeals Council

If the ALJ also denies your claim, your case is not necessarily over. Your disability lawyer may ask that your case be reviewed by Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council, located in Falls Church, Virginia, with additional offices in Baltimore. This is the last administrative decision level. The Appeals Council renders the Social Security's final decision.

The Appeals Council looks at all requests for review, but they may deny your request if they believe your hearing decision was correct. If the Council reviews your case, they can either grant benefits to you outright or send your case back to the ALJ for further review.

Some cases are automatically chosen for review by a Decision Review Board. You have ten days to explain to them why you disagree with the decision. It’s important to contact legal representation before then, to be sure there’s enough time to prepare.

4. Federal Court review

If the Appeals Council declines to review your case or if you and your legal representative disagree with that decision, the last step may be to file a lawsuit against Social Security in Federal District Court. (District Court is not part of Social Security.) You must file your case within 60 days from the date you received your Appeals Council denial. Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates has extensive experience arguing in Federal Court, and can help you file your appeal within this crucial timeframe. Please contact our office immediately to get started.

Federal Court appeals are typically about procedural issues rather than medical facts. No one is allowed to testify. No new evidence is presented. It can take a year or longer to receive a decision from the judge. The judge may:

  • send the case back to Social Security with instructions about your case
  • agree with the decision to deny your case, or
  • reverse Social Security and award you disability benefits.

In very rare cases, further appeals may be made to Federal Circuit Court and the United States Supreme Court.  

Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates represents people unable to work at all levels of appeal. Whether you need to apply for benefits or were already denied, contact us to talk about your case. There is no attorney fee unless you win disability benefits.