FAQ: Should I Bring in ALL of My Medical Records for My Case?

SSI vs SSDI - what's the difference?

The answer to this one is all about communication and timing.   Is that vague – watch this short video and it will make more sense.

Here is our outstanding founding attorney, Randi L. Johnson, breaking down the answer:


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Do I Need a Disability Lawyer When Working With Social Security?

Do I Need a Disability Lawyer When Working With Social Security?

Do I Need a Disability Lawyer When Working With Social Security?


Do you need to file for disability through Social Security?

Have you already filed disability and been denied?

Maybe we can help!

Hiring a disability lawyer is both helpful for new disability claimants and critical for those who have been denied.

Here’s how & why hiring a disability lawyer is a great idea in your Social Security claim.


Success Rate When Using a Disability Lawyer

Did you know that those who are filing for disability increase their chances significantly when hiring a lawyer? Nearly three times more successful to be exact.  We wrote about this in depth in our article, The Odds: Getting Your Social Security Claim Approved.


Cost of a Disability Lawyer

For most, the biggest concern comes with how a disability lawyer is paid. You may worry that you cannot afford a lawyer and therefore will not be able to receive the help. The truth is that a disability lawyer is only paid if you are approved for social security disability. When you are approved for disability social security will owe you back pay for the time that you suffered from your disability, but were not yet receiving benefits. Once your case is approved your lawyer fee will be taken from your back pay (up to twenty-five percent or $6,000).

Here’s more information on how you can afford a disability lawyer.


Best Time to Contact a Disability Lawyer

When is a good time to contact a disability lawyer? That depends on how comfortable and confident you are with filling out all of the necessary paperwork for disability applications.

Remember the chances of getting your initial claim approved hover around 20%, for a variety of reasons.  With a lawyer involved at this stage, chances increase by almost 10 percent, and if you stick with them through your appeal, your chances of success grow to well over 50%.

A disability lawyer comes in handy later on when going through the rigamarole of Social Security.


Advantages of Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Here are some clear-cut advantages to hiring a disability lawyer:

  • You will not have to keep going to the social security office and spend so much time waiting
  • The paperwork alone is easily more than forty pages long. An attorney can help to gather all the paperwork needed.
  • Disability Lawyers know the language. Social security and courts are very wordy and hard to understand at times. Your lawyer will know all the terms and appropriate ways of responding.
  • An experienced attorney knows the system like the back of their hand. This means that the whole process will be a lot faster and no guesswork for you!
  • You will never miss a deadline. The social security administration is very serious about their deadlines, and if one is missed, you may have to start the whole application process over again. A lawyer can be there for you and stay on top of the mundane things such as this.
  • When appealing a claim that has already been denied your attorney may be able to send in a brief that compels the judge to not need a hearing and approve your benefits then and there.
  • Rest assured that your attorney will be professional and ethical; it’s the law and rules of conduct for the social security administration
  • No upfront payments needed. No payments until you start receiving back pay and only then will your lawyer receive payment from your backpay before you even receive your first check.


We Help Disability Claimants In Spokane, Eastern Washington, & Northern Idaho

No matter where you are in the process, we can help.  Contact us today!


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Basics of Social Security Lawyers’ Fees

Basics of Social Security Lawyers’ Fees

Hiring a social security lawyer for your claim or appeal might seem to be an overwhelming task.

When you factor in the anxiety most people have about how to pay for a social security lawyer, you begin to see why so many try to pursue their claim alone.

You do not have to go it alone though.  You can afford a social security lawyer!  How?

Social security lawyers only work on a contingency basis.

Let’s take a look at what that means.

The Contingency Fee Agreement

A contingency fee means merely that social security lawyers do not get paid unless you win your claim.  Their costs will be paid out of your benefits before you even get your first check.

Some contingency fees are set up as a lump sum payment that comes out of your benefits at the very beginning, and then you are done.  Others are set up to be taken out, monthly, before your check is sent to you.  This will be decided by you and the social security lawyers when you sign a contingency fee agreement.

A contingency fee agreement states that the social security administration has the permission to pay your legal counsel when you begin receiving your benefits. The social security administration will also be sure to make sure that your agreement follows all applicable regulations.

Your attorney will not be receiving any more than 25% of your benefits or more than $6,000.

There are times when social security lawyers require extra fees. Of course, these fees must meet ample lawful justification before the social security administration approves them. This happens on very rare occasions, and most requests for more money out of your benefits are not approved.

Two Tier Agreements

Some attorneys may have you sign what is called a “two-tier agreement”. It got this name because although similar to the regular contingency agreement, it covers two scenarios instead of one.

The first scenario is the one we laid out just a moment ago: receiving twenty-five percent

The second approach is if your claim is denied and you social security lawyer proceeds with any further appeals on your behalf. In this case, your lawyer may choose to petition for a higher amount rather than accepting the regular amount.  The Social Security Administration would have to approve the higher amount before your lawyers get paid.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Some social security lawyers will also charge you some out-of-pocket fees.  These typically cover the cost of requesting your medical records, copies, postage, etc.  These fees do not usually cost more than $200, but your lawyer should tell you about them before you sign anything.  If they do not, then be sure to ask about any out-of-pocket fees and what they will cover.  These fees are always negotiable.  Moreover, it may be worth it to shop around for attorneys to see if any of them are willing to waive those fees in taking on your case.

Contact a Social Security Lawyer in Spokane, WA

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What You Can Do When You Receive an SSDI or SSI Denial Letter

What You Can Do When You Receive an SSDI or SSI Denial Letter

Have you applied for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI)?

Did you wait months and months to hear back only to see an SSI denial letter in your mailbox?

Did you know that up to seventy percent of claims are denied after your first application?

Claimants often have to go through the appeal process, just to get the benefits they deserve.  

Things to Avoid on Your Initial Application

Some things to avoid while going through your SSDI or SSI disability application:

  • Applying for disability while currently working: There are no rules against this, but the social security administration will look to see if you are able to perform Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).  It is exceedingly difficult to make a clear case that you are disabled to a point where you cannot earn an income when you are currently working and earning an income. 
  • Applying for disability with a condition that is temporary: Your debilitating condition should be expected to last for more than a year if you are looking to apply for benefits. Your case may be harder to prove that you have a long-term ailment if you are applying too soon.
  • Keeping it too simple: Some applicants do not provide enough evidence to prove your case fully. A consultative exam, provided by the social security administration is not enough. Doctors letters, RFC’s, and medical records help significantly.
  • Not following the doctor’s directions:  Social security examiners will look into your history of treatments when considering your application. It is very important to follow treatments your doctor has recommended, even if that means it will improve your condition and possibly hurt your chances of being approved.
  • Not checking in with the experts:  Even if it is premature to hire an attorney (is it ever?) you can reach out for consultations.  Read their blogs, sign up for newsletters.  Get to know the process and your place in it.  

What to do if You Receive an SSI Denial Letter

After receiving your SSI denial letter, it is important to apply for an appeal. You have sixty days, with five days for mailing, to send this application in. The four levels of appeal are:

  • Reconsideration: You will fill out a request for reconsideration for after you have received your denial.
  • Law judge hearing: This is optional for you. If you do however choose not to be seen by a judge in a live hearing, your appeal request will be determined by information strictly from your file.
  • Appeal council review: Next you can request the appeal council to review your case. During this time you can add any new evidence that may help out your case. The council can accept, deny or dismiss your request for review. If accepted you will then be sent back to a law judge hearing.
  • Federal court: Finally, if need be, you can file for a civil action. This is if the council denies your claim again. You will have sixty days to file for civil action which will then be taken to federal court. U.S district court will then be sent to review your case and make the final decision considering your claim.

Your final option, if you have gone through the previous steps and continue to be denied, is to simply reapply.

We Can Help You

Lilac City Law helps clients through Reconsideration and Appeal of their Social Security Disability Claims.  If your claim has been denied, is in reconsideration, or needs to be scheduled for an appeal hearing, we will help!

Contact a Lilac City Law Disability Attorney Today

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9 Ways A Disability Lawyer Will Help You in Your SSI or SSDI appeal.

9 Ways A Disability Lawyer Will Help You in Your SSI or SSDI appeal.

If you have applied for Social Security Income (SSI) and have received a denial letter, you may be wondering if a disability lawyer can appeal the decision for you. 

The answer is yes.  Now is the best time to hire a disability lawyer if you have not already done so.

Here are 9 excellent reasons and ways a disability lawyer will help you in your SSI or SSDI appeal.

  1. Statistics show that having a disability attorney when appealing a denial of SSI, raises your chances of winning your appeal. You can win without representation, but it has been shown that having a disability lawyer represent you helps.
  1. Social Security Disability lawyers have experience working with social security. They will be knowledgeable about timelines and guidelines as well as what evidence is needed to strengthen your case.  You only have 60 days to appeal your denial.  Day one starts when you receive your letter.
  1. Your lawyer will read through your denial letter and determine the exact reasons you were denied. They will also request your original claim file and look for any errors that may have been made.  It lets them see what evidence you submitted and will give them an idea of what needs to be added.
  1. Disability lawyers will gather additional medical evidence for you to strengthen your case. They will speak with medical professionals on your behalf and collect medical records, x-ray reports, lab reports, etc. from your primary doctor, urgent cares, and emergency rooms that have treated you for your disability.  They will also collect reports from any physical or occupational therapy you have completed or are still doing for your disability.
  1. Your lawyer will also collect opinions from your medical doctor. Your medical records will show what your disability is, but the opinions of your doctor will allow SSA to see what your ability to work is according to a medical professional.
  1. You will not have to worry about filling out all of the tedious paperwork or write your appeal letter on your own. Your disability lawyer will take care of that for you.  They will ensure that nothing on your paperwork will harm your odds of winning your appeal.
  1. Your disability lawyer will prepare you for questioning during the hearing. Having to speak in front of a judge can be nerve-racking, but your lawyer will tell what types of questions to expect and help you form answers that will not be detrimental.
  1. At the hearing, your disability lawyer will question the vocational experts. Vocational experts are people that hired by Social Security to testify on your ability to perform your job. You can represent yourself, but a disability lawyer will know the right kinds of questions to ask to prove your case.
  1. Social Security Disability lawyers are familiar with the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who oversee SSI cases. They know what the ALJ is looking for and what types of evidence to provide to make a strong case.

If you are looking for disability lawyer, you can contact us.

Contact Lilac City Law for Help With Your SSI/SSDI Appeal

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Do SSI Lawyers Really Help You with Your Disability Claim?

Do SSI Lawyers Really Help You with Your Disability Claim?

Did you know that hiring an SSI Lawyer to help with your appeal can increase your chances of being approved by double?

How? Why? Does it matter that much to retain a great SSI lawyer? 

Reasons to Hire an SSI Lawyer

The process of applying for SSI can take anywhere from one month to three years (Initial decision through any appeals if needed). Having someone to help you at any point during the process will make it less stressful and ensure you meet deadlines and guidelines.  Missed deadlines are one of the big reasons disability claims end up getting denied in the first place.

In addition to helping you to meet all deadlines, even the ones you did not know existed, SSI Lawyers should be able to access medical evidence, employment records, and all the other parts of your life that go into making an airtight case for the benefits you rate.  The goal is always to present the best case that demonstrates you meet the Social Security Administration’s official disability definition.

Your attorney will also spend time preparing you for questions you may come to face when in an appeals hearing, such as:

  • Describe your symptoms?
  • Are you currently seeing a physician for your disability?
  • When were you unable to continue work?
  • Are you still able to take care of personal hygiene?
  • How long can you be physically active before needing to rest?

This is a very brief overview; for a more in-depth discussion on SSI Appeals, and the steps necessary to win them.

You might also want to read: “Your Odds, Getting Your Social Security Claim Approved”

Talk to an SSI Lawyer About Your Case, Today!

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Cost of a Disability Lawyer

There are little to no out of pocket fees to hire SSI lawyers! Disability lawyer fees are paid out of your back pay for your benefits and are limited to 25% (up to $6000). You will be asked to sign a contingency fee agreement stating that they will only get paid if you receive disability benefits.   Any out of pocket fees you pay will be from medical record requests, any copies, and sometimes postage. Be sure to ask up front, what out-of-pocket fees you may have and if you need to pay them before or after they close your case.

If you would like to discuss your case with a disability lawyer, feel free to give us a call!

When should I talk to a disability lawyer?

When should I talk to a disability lawyer?

When you apply for disability, a disability lawyer can significantly increase your chances of approval.

Up to 70% of all initial applications get denied. 

Having a disability lawyer can increase your chances of receiving disability benefits up to 50%.

When to Contact a Disability Lawyer

The sooner you contact a disability lawyer the better. If you have questions about the initial application process, you can call an attorney and set up a time to go over the procedure, your reason for filing, what to expect, and any other questions you have about the process or benefits you should be receiving.

If you already applied, you can still contact a lawyer and they will help you to figure out what to do to best approach whatever step you are at in the application or appeals process.

Contact A Disability Lawyer Today!

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What a Disability Attorney Will Do

Some positives to having a disability lawyer on your side are:

  • They will avidly work so that your case is seriously considered and give you the best chances possible at getting awarded
  • They will go over your medical history to properly present your case
  • They prepare you for questioning that is bound to happen in court
  • They gather further evidence from physicians and so on to further prove your case
  • They directly ask critical questions at the time of cross-examination
  • They can appeal your claim to the federal district court level
  • They will NOT miss critical filing deadlines!

Hassle Free & Less Stressful For Everyone!

Most disability lawyers will offer you a free consultation to go over your case.  We certainly do!  They can also review your denial letter and request your original claim file.  The disability lawyer can look through your file and see if you missed any important information that will help your case.  They can also see if you made any mistakes in the initial application.

Cost of Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Something else to keep in mind while deciding on hiring a disability lawyer is that they work on contingency. Contingency means your lawyer will only get paid if you win your claim.  In the end, your hired lawyer can only receive 25% (up to $6000) of your back pay for their fees.

Feel free to do your research on lawyers. There is a long road ahead of you! Most Disability lawyers will gladly do a free initial review of your claim. Doing so will open up the opportunity early on to decipher the good and the bad of your original claim.

Give us a call if you need assistance, we’d love to help you figure out your next step.

Help!  Social Security Thinks I Can Perform Sedentary Work

Help!  Social Security Thinks I Can Perform Sedentary Work

You applied for Social Security benefits. 

You receive a denial letter and in it, it says that you can perform sedentary work.

What does this mean?  What can you do?

What is Sedentary Work?

When Social Security reviews your case, they look at the medical evidence that has been submitted.  They use the “grid”, a system developed by SSA to decide if a person is able to work based on the highest level of their job.  And they determine if you can perform sedentary work, light work, or medium work.

If you are determined to be able to do sedentary work, this means you are able to perform a sit-down job.  A job that would require you to lift up to 10 lbs., occasionally carry objects such as files and be able to walk or stand for up to two hours at a time.

This article will give you several examples of sedentary work, and how the SSA will view your capacity to do sedentary work.

You can review the “Grid” system that SSA uses, here.

Medical consultants at SSA assign you a residual functional capacity (RFC) level on work.  They use this to see if you are able to do work by using the grid (above). The grid determines your level of disability based on age, education, RFC level, previous work experience, and transferability of skills.

Based on what the grid says, you may be granted or denied benefits.

For example, if you are 50 and are deemed able to do sedentary work and have a college degree, then you will not qualify for disability benefits because the grid determines you are still employable, even in a reduced state.  You can appeal this!

Appeal a Denial For Disability!


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What can I do?

If you truly are unable to perform sedentary work, then you are going to need to prove it.  If you do not already have a disability lawyer, now would be a good time to get one.  A lawyer can help you gather the information needed in order to prove that you can not even do sedentary work.

Your lawyer will use your medical records, doctor’s opinions, your testimony and anything else they will show why you can’t do various sedentary jobs. The SSA can only use the evidence and symptoms indicated in your medical records so it is important for you to have your doctor note any and all symptoms you may be experiencing.

You will need to prove that you cannot:

  • Lift up to 10 pounds
  • Stand or walk for more than 2 hours a day
  • Walk without the use of medical hand-held devices (cane, walker, etc.)
  • Sit for 6 hours out of an 8-hour work-day

Other things that can prove that you can only do less than sedentary work are:

  • Needing to alternate sitting and standing through the day
  • Needing to rest or lie down
  • Inability to stoop or bend
  • Reduced ability in use of hands or fingers
  • Taking frequent sick days
  • Unable to balance on smooth surfaces
  • Visual limitations
  • Unable to work in noisy environments
  • Unable to follow short, simple instructions
  • Inappropriate interaction with supervisors and co-workers
  • Not able to maintain hygiene
  • Cannot handle work stress
  • Off task for more than 15% of the work day

Unfortunately, even citing many of these will not stop the SSA from finding some job (even random) that you will be able to perform.

The SSA uses the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) to determine what types of jobs you may qualify for.  You might notice…a large portion of these jobs are non-existent jobs such as telegraph-service rater, microfilm processor, and telephone quotation clerk.

It is important that you have you a good attorney that can help you contest the jobs if they are one of those that are not actual jobs anymore, or if there are aspects of your impairment that you may not realize will become notable during your appeal.

Four Examples of Sedentary Work And Why They May Not Apply to You

Four Examples of Sedentary Work And Why They May Not Apply to You

In order to win your appeal for Social Security disability, you must prove that your limitations from injury or illness prevent you from not only doing your recent job but any job that is also less demanding but within your ability to do. 

This is difficult, especially for younger people.  Social Security believes that younger claimants can adjust to sit down jobs even if they have an impairment. 

However, if you can prove that you can do less than sedentary work, you will have a great shot at winning your appeal for Social Security disability. 

Sedentary Work As an Alternative to Social Security Disability

Generally speaking, the following are going to be strong indicators that you can perform sedentary work:

  • You can lift more than ten pounds
  • You can stand or walk for more than a total of 2 hours combined
  • You can sit for 6 hours out of an 8 hour work day

If you can do a minimum of these three tasks on a daily basis, the Social Security Administration is going to be seeking to understand why you are unable to work, even at a reduced rate.  You should start making note of your specific limitations and how they might help you counter these questions.

Limitations That Might Prevent you to Perform Sedentary Work

Physical exertional limitations

  • Inability to do any of the above mentioned skills
  • Need the use of medical devices to help walk
  • Need to have leg elevated
  • Unable to use an arm due to amputation above the elbow

Non-exertional limitations

  • Needing to alternate sitting and standing
  • Need to rest or lie down
  • Cannot stoop or bend
  • Reduced ability to use hands and fingers
  • Need to take frequent sick days
  • Cannot balance (even on smooth surfaces)
  • Visual limitation
  • Cannot work in noise

Cognitive or Behavioral Health limitations that can affect the ability to do Sedentary work

  • Inability to focus and concentrate due to a prescribed pain medication
  • Difficulty performing simple, routine, unskilled tasks
  • Interference with completing tasks on time
  • Cannot get along with others or cannot respond appropriately to authority

In your disability appeal, the SSA will consult with a vocational expert (VE).  A vocational expert knows about job availability and the skills need to perform those jobs.  The VE will most likely be able to find jobs that you can still do, regardless of your condition; however, a seasoned and effective Social Security Disability Attorney will be able to push back and give you a stronger chance for overcoming the appeal than if you decide to do it yourself.

Four Examples of Sedentary Work

Example 1:

You are a 36-year-old who was a machinist for the past fifteen years.  You were in a car accident that caused a severe back injury, and you are unable to perform your job.  You can no longer lift more than 10 pounds.  When you applied for Social Security, you were denied because they said that you could perform sedentary work.  The vocational expert says that you can work as an administrative assistant.  However, this does not apply to you because you need to change sitting and standing positions every hour or you are in excruciating pain. 

Example 2:

You are a 52-year-old who was a teacher for the past 30 years.  You fell down the stairs and broke your leg in multiple places.  You had to have surgery and now need to take pain medication on a regular basis to function.  You can no longer stand long enough to teach, so you are unable to work anymore.  When you applied to Social Security for disability, you were denied due to your ability to perform sedentary work.  Your pain medications, however, cause you to be unable to focus or concentrate and complete a task in a timely manner. 

Example 3:

You are a 62-year-old woodworker.  You have been building cabinets since you were in your early twenties.  You have no formal education, only a high school diploma. You broke your back in an ATV accident when you were in your forties.  This caused lymphatic damage which turned into lymphodema causing your legs to swell and have poor circulation.  If you bump your leg, it breaks open easily and gets infected, so you can no longer work around wood and tools that can cause injury.  You also have a very difficult standing and lifting.  You applied for Social Security disability but were denied.  You were deemed able to perform sedentary work.  However, the medication that you are taking causes you to become dizzy and at times almost pass out.  You cannot bend without almost falling because you cannot balance. 

Example 4:

You are a 45-year-old, and you were a concrete worker. You hurt your back and can’t work anymore. You help out your wife at your home business by filing documents, answering calls, and responding to emails. You apply for Social Security and get denied.  Even though you do not get paid, Social Security determines that if you were getting paid you would make SGA and you are capable of performing sedentary work.  However, you use a script when answering the phone because your head is fuzzy from medications. You also only work about two hours during the day because you need to lie down and take a break because your back hurts so much.  

In all four examples, you were told that you were able to perform sedentary work, but again in all four examples, sedentary work did not necessarily apply to you.  In these cases, and similar situations, you want to contact a disability attorney asap to help you prove that you are unable to perform sedentary work.

Work With a Social Security Attorney Today


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How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

Applying for Social Security in Washington State can be an overwhelming process. 

If you are one of the greater than 70% of those who are initially denied your claim, it can be devastating, and your path to getting the benefits you have earned can be hard to see. 

What should you do?  Who can help you? This article was written to give you some clarity.

The first step is calm down, take a deep breath, and if needed contact a disability professional to help you. 

The first thing to know is that your denial letter should explain why you were denied and give you a list of the places social security requested and received medical evidence.  It is very common to read through these letters and be confused and frustrated.  Clearly the Social Security Administration missed the mark somewhere; otherwise, you would not even be reading this article.  Nevertheless – you should familiarize yourself with their statements and prepare yourself for your appeal options.  

Here are your four appeal levels for Social Security in Washington State.

Request for Reconsideration

With your denial letter in hand, you now have 60 days (plus five days for mailing) from the date you received your denial notice to complete a request for reconsideration form and return it to the Social Security address listed in your letter.  You can do this either by mail or by dropping it off at your local Social Security office.   Here is a handy tool to locate Social Security offices in Washington State.

If you were denied because the Social Security Administration did not determine you to be disabled, ask to see what medical evidence they have in your file. When filing your request for reconsideration, you should seek to include as much of the following as possible with your request for reconsideration form:

  • Letter from your doctor stating why he believes you are disabled
  • Letter from friends or family stating how your disability has affected your day to day activities
  • Additional medical evidence that was not originally included in your claim

You do not need to be present for the reconsideration.

And remember, if you are denied because Social Security believes you no longer have a disability, you do have the option to meet with a Washington State Social Security representative to explain you still have a disability.

Talk About Your Social Security Denial With A Disability Lawyer Today


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Disability Hearing

If your request for reconsideration is denied, then you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Typically, the time between your request and the hearing is 1-2 years, though this timeline can vary widely depending on where you live.  In Spokane, WA – the timeline for disability hearings was 487 days as of the date this article was written.  It is important for you to attend the hearing and bring your representative (if you have one).

Other witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts will likely testify for Social Security.  You or your attorney representative will be able to ask them questions during the hearing and make a strong case for your disability is a barrier to employability.

After the hearing, the judge will make a decision, and you will receive a letter and copy of the decision.

Review by the Appeals Council

If you disagree with the decision made by the judge on your appeal, you can ask for the decision on your claim to be reviewed by the Appeals Council.  At this point, if you have not used a Social Security Disability attorney, it is necessary to start consulting with one.

In short, the Appeals Council will look at your request and decide if they agree with the hearing decision – the decision of the judge based on the evidence provided.

If they believe the ALJ (administrative law judge) decision was correct, then the judge’s decision will be upheld.

If the appeals council believes there was an error in the ALJ’s decision, they may remand your claim back to another administrative law judge for another appeals hearing.

And, rarely, but it does happen – the Appeals Council will overturn a denied claim if they believe the judge’s decision was completely in error. This action would result in an approved disability claim.

Here is data on the Appeals Council Requests for Review so you can get an idea of their backlog.

Federal Court Review

If you do not agree with the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit in the Federal District Court.  In the letter sent to you about the Appeals Council decision, you will find information on how to file with the federal court.  You will need an attorney at this point, in any case.  They should be aware of the process of filing a federal district court lawsuit.