Statistically speaking, more people win their case after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge than at the initial level. However, some people will receive an unfavorable decision after their hearing. So, what happens next?
The next step in a Social Security case is the Appeals Council. Your appeal must be filed within 60 days of the date of your decision. You can contact your local Social Security Office to obtain the necessary paperwork. I recommend personally delivering the appeal paperwork to your local office and getting confirmation in writing. You can also mail your paperwork but should go the post office and request that it be sent "certified mail, return receipt." This will ensure that you have proof that you filed your appeal.
The Appeals Council is located in Virginia and reviews your decision to see if the Administrative Law Judge made any mistakes. The Appeals Council is made up of Administrative Appeals Judges and staff. Appealing your claim can take 16 to 18 months. The Appeals Council will review your claim file so that means that anything you want them to consider must be in writing. You will not speak with or see the Administrative Appeals Judge personally.
If you were represented at your hearing, your attorney or representative should tell you whether they are going to appeal your case. If your attorney decides not to appeal your claim or if you were not represented and are seeking an attorney, make sure you keep your decision close at hand. Like most lawyers, I must see and read a decision before I can decide whether to appeal a case to the Appeals Council. This is because I must be able to determine if there are good arguments that the Administrative Law Judge made mistakes in the decision. If we take your case, our office will file all of the necessary paperwork for you. Just remember that you only have 60 days to file your appeal!