Social Security Benefits News from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on December 1, 2015 requiring reversal of an Appeals Council decision if they refuse to consider new evidence. The Court concluded that "whether evidence meets the new, material, and chronologically relevant standard "is a question of law subject to our de novo review."
In Washington v. Commissioner, No. 15-10413 (11th Cir. Dec. 1, 2015), Mr. Washington was denied benefits by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and appealed this decision to the Appeals Council. While his claim was pending at the Appeals Council, he was seen by a psychologist, Dr. Wilson, and submitted the opinions of Dr. Wilson to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Washington's appeal and refused to consider the evidence from Dr. Wilson because it concerned a later time period and was immaterial to whether Mr. Washington was disabled on or before the date of the ALJ's decision. Mr. Washington then appealed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, who affirmed the decision of the Appeals Council. He then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, who found that the Appeals Council's refusal to consider Dr. Wilson's opinions was legal error and remanded the case to the Social Security Commissioner to consider the new evidence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Appeals Council must accept and consider additional evidence submitted to them. Once evidence is submitted and considered, the Appeals Council may at that point decide the evidence is not relevant.
"With few exceptions, the claimant is allowed to present new evidence at each stage of this administrative process," which includes the Appeals Council. Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1252, 1261 (11th Cir. 2007). The Appeals Council has the discretion not to review the ALJ's denial of benefits, but the Appeals Council "must consider new, material, and chronologically relevant evidence' that the claimant submits." Ingram, 496 F.3d at 1261.
For more information on Social Security disability benefits and SSI, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. represents Social Security disability claimants in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana at all levels of the disability process from initial application to appeals to Federal Court. Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. has been helping Social Security claimants with their disability claims for over 30 years.