Millions of Social Security Disability benefits claims are backlogged at the Social Security Administration (SSA). Every year, the Social Security system receives millions more. Sadly, most of these claims do not get approved.
Actually, around 70 percent of all claims the SSA receives end in denial. If your claim for benefits is denied, your next step is to appeal, which is a long, stressful process that might lead to obtaining the benefits you desire.
While most appeals are approved at the disability or SSI hearing stage of the appeal process, many applicants must take things a step further. That’s when you come to the federal court review.
To request that the federal court provide a review of your disability claim, you or your lawyer will have to file a civil action in the U.S. district court that handles your local judicial district. If you live in an area without a judicial district, then you’ll need to file the action with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Your initial appeals may have cost no more than postage, but that changes for the federal review. When filing a civil action at this appeal stage, you’ll be responsible for a filing fee. For people who cannot afford the fee, you may be able to have the court waive it.
Once the action is filed in court, you’ll need to send copies of your filed Social Security complaints and the summons issued by the court. In order to count, these need to be sent to the Social Security Administration via registered or certified mail.
A disability brief explains your position to the court in detail in a legal document. For an SSA appeal, your first brief is called an Opening Brief. This document analyzes the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) decision based on testimony and medical evidence and tries to persuade the federal judge that the ALJ didn’t consider all the evidence or make their decision in accordance with the law. You may not offer new evidence in an Opening Brief.
Opening Briefs alone can be the difference between denial and approval, so they are absolutely necessary when applying for an appeal. Because of this, it’s important to hire an attorney with experience writing federal appeal briefs for disability claims.
Studies have shown that claimants who work with disability lawyers are more likely to be approved for disability benefits than those who represent themselves. Even if you didn’t have an attorney for your lower appeal levels, having one at the Federal Court Review level is imperative.