FAQ About Appealing an Unfavorable Decision

Q: What do I do if the ALJ issues an unfavorable decision?
A: You can ask for a review of the ALJ’s decision by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is located in Falls Church, Virginia. It may also be a good idea to consult a Tennessee disability attorney to assist you with your appeal.

Q: Can the Appeals Council decide to review my case without me asking it to do so?
A: Yes, the Appeals Council can review ALJ decisions on their own motion, but if you want your case reviewed it is best to formally ask for the review.

Q: What happens if the Appeals Council decides not to review the ALJ’s decision?
A: The ALJ’s decision becomes the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security on the claim. It is then subject to federal court review.

Q: What happens if the Appeals Council decides to review my case?
A: The Appeals council can decide to affirm the ALJ’s decision, modify it, reverse it entirely, or send it back for a new hearing.

Q: Is review by the Appeals Council just another hearing in my case?
A: No. Review by the Appeals Council is almost always what is called a “review of the record.” This means the review looks at all of the documentary evidence and the hearing transcript. Generally there is no need for a claimant to appear for another hearing. If you feel that you really want to appear before the Appeals Council you can petition to be allowed to do so but keep in mind that those requests are almost never granted.

Q: What if I have new evidence that helps my case?
A: New evidence may be submitted to the Appeals Council if it applies to the time period before the date of the ALJ’s decision. You should consult with your Tennessee disability attorney if you think you have new evidence that should be submitted to the Appeals Council.

Q: What happens if the Appeals Council makes an unfavorable decision?
A: You can file a civil action in the United States District Court for the district where you live. You will have to name the Commissioner of Social Security as a defendant. The U.S. District Court can affirm, modify or reverse the decision of the Commissioner. Since civil court actions have very different procedures than the Social Security Administration, it can be helpful to have a Tennessee disability attorney assist you with filing the civil court action.

Q: What happens if the U.S. District Court issues an unfavorable decision?
A: You can appeal your case to the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the district court sits.

Q: What happens if the United States Court of Appeals issues an unfavorable decision?
A: You can appeal to the United States Supreme Court. You will have to file a petition for a writ of certiorari. However, keep in mind that your chances of having the U.S. Supreme Court review your case are extremely slim. In recent years, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari in very few Social Security cases.

If you have received an unfavorable decision and are interested in appealing it, contact Tennessee disability attorneys for a legal consultation.