If the Appeals Council does not review your case or you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you can file a civil action in a Federal District Court. The civil action is filed in a U.S. district court of the district where you live within 60 days of the Appeals Council decision. The Social Security Administration does not assist claimants with Federal court appeals. It is highly recommended at this stage in the appeal process to have an experienced attorney take your appeal to Federal court. If you appeal on your own, you must follow the Federal court rules or your case could be dismissed.
There is a fee to file a civil action in Federal court. The fee is $400 in 2019. If you are indigent and cannot afford the fee, there is an application process to request a waiver of the fee.
A complaint is filed against the Commissioner of Social Security, and copies of the complaint and summons issued by the court must be sent to the Social Security Administration’s Office of General Counsel, the Attorney General, and the Civil Process Clerk. The complaint briefly outlines all the reasons why the Administrative Law Judge was wrong in denying the claim, based on errors of law and lack of substantial evidence. Social Security provides an answer to the complaint, briefly stating the reasons why the decision denying benefits was correct.
The district court does not make a new determination, instead, the Court meticulously reviews the record and considers whether the Administrative Law Judge followed the law and had enough evidence to support the denial of benefits. Although you may disagree with the denial of benefits, there must be good legal reasons to continue to appeal in Federal court. Otherwise, sometimes filing a new claim is in the claimant’s best interests.
It takes a knowledgeable attorney to spot issues in the Administrative Law Judge’s denial that will win in Federal court, enabling another chance of success on the claimant’s application.
In Federal court, a magistrate judge will review legal arguments made as to why the Administrative Law Judge made legal errors in evaluating your claim or did not have substantial evidence to make the unfavorable determination. Once the service of process is completed and Social Security has answered the complaint, the Federal court will schedule deadlines for submitting legal arguments. An opening brief is required to explain all the legal reasons Social Security was wrong in denying your claim.
At this point in the appeal process, Social Security Administration’s Office of General Counsel attorneys argue in favor of affirming the denial. The claimant has one last chance in a reply brief to point out the weaknesses in Social Security’s arguments and defend your position for reversal. Then the magistrate judge, if you consented to one, makes a determination based on all the evidence and legal arguments presented whether to a) reverse and remand for another administrative hearing, or b) reverse and award benefits, or c) affirm the decision. This process can extend for over a year until a determination is made.
Attorneys at Martone Law Firm have decades of experience arguing appeals in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico. We are familiar with the magistrate judges that review these cases, the law in the district and circuit courts, and can present effective legal arguments on your behalf. Attorneys at the Martone Law Firm carefully evaluate each claim in order to determine the best course of action for each client to obtain benefits.
If you received a denial from the Appeals Council contact Martone Law Firm today to find out if your case should continue to U.S. District Court.