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What is the Appeals Council Process?

At this point, you have likely waited almost a year and half for an appeal hearing, and unfortunately the judge has issued an unfavorable opinion in your case. The next step in the process is appealing the decision to the Appeals Council. Some cases are lost before judges. The hearing judge’s decision is at times arbitrary. In Montgomery, we can look online at each judge’s percentage of approving an individual for Social Security or SSI. Shockingly, the approval percentages for judges range from 17% to 76%. These percentages include the individuals who did not hire an attorney, but it does indicate the very wide gap in how judges decide cases. If you happen to be assigned to one of the judges with a low approval rating, do not give up hope. Just keeping moving forward with the process! If you have not retained a Montgomery Social Security lawyer, then do so immediately!

The Appeals Council is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia with additional offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Crystal City, Virginia. Typically a case finds itself at the Appeals Council after it has been denied at the initial level, reconsideration level, and denied by the Administrative Law Judge. Because of new changes to the Social Security Regulations, you should first speak with an experienced Social Security attorney before filing a request for review before the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will generally only remand a case back to the hearing judge if new evidence is presented or if the council finds that the judge committed some technical error in the decision. The second hearing will be conducted in the same manner as the first hearing; however, a new judge will be assigned to the case. Occasionally, the council will find that a second hearing is not necessary, and it may overturn the judge’s decision completely and award benefits to the individual. This is why it is so important to be completely prepared for the Appeals Council and to hire an experienced Montgomery Social Security lawyer.

The request for review before the Appeals Council must be filed within 60 days of the unfavorable decision by the Administrative Law Judge. If you fail to file the request timely, if you have a good reason for a late filing, the request may still be accepted. However, it is best to file the request for review before the Appeals Council within the allotted 60 days. Using an experienced Montgomery Social Security attorney will allow him or her to file the necessary paperwork and requests to the Appeals Council within the allotted time, alleviating the pressure on you.

The Appeals Council may decide to not review your case. If it does decide to review your case, it may either reverse the decision issued by the Administrative Law Judge, which means it will reject the unfavorable decision and issue you a fully favorable or partially favorable decision; or it may remand your case back to the Administrative Law Judge with specific instructions for the Judge to consider. If your case is remanded, your case will be returned to your local ODAR(Office of Disability and Review) for your case to be reset for another hearing before the same Administrative Law Judge that had your previous hearing. The judge must then take the instructions outlined by the Appeals Council and give you another hearing, adhering to the instructions. You and your lawyer will receive a copy of the Appeals Council's final action in your case, even a refusal to review your case. Sadly, a study in 2009 showed that the average appeal took 261 days to complete. In our experience, we have found that the Appeals Council will decide a case anywhere from 6 to 24 months.

At The Sellers Law Firm, our experience Montgomery Social Security lawyers are here to help you! All consultations are always free. Call us and meet our team at 334-LAWYERS (529-9377)! You may also email us at or use the “text us” link or Contact Form on our website. For many years, we were asked by our clients, “Why don’t you have an office near me?” We answered the “near me” question by creating offices in Montgomery, Selma, Greenville, and Troy! Remember that doing nothing, changes nothing so act today!

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Brandon was my first choice for an attorney because he is part of the community and you see him at the local store or PTA meetings and he always has time for you and answer your concerns. Ronica Phifer
The Sellers Law Firm represented me in my social security case, and later in my Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I have been very happy with all that you have done for me, and I refer people to you all the time. Thanks for all that you have done for me and my family. Angie Langford
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