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Who issues the final decision on an SSD appeal?

Some applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are denied at the first step of the process. Further, requests for reconsideration are denied in even larger numbers. After that, cases normally proceed to an SSDI hearing before an administrative law judge. While the chances of being approved in such a hearing are much better, they are not 100 percent. So, what happens if you are denied again after a hearing?

The Social Security Administration has set up a process for people denied benefits at the hearing stage to appeal that decision. The office responsible for this is the SSA’s Appeals Council, which consists of around 68 Administrative Appeals Judges and 42 Appeals officers. These personnel are the ones who will have the final say – during the administrative process, at least – on a disability case. To request the Appeals Council to review the decision an administrative law judge made in a case, the applicant must file a written request within 60 days of hearing decision. The council will then either deny the request if it believes the Administrative Law Judge was correct, or it will grant review. If it does grant the request for review, it will review the entire case, and will either grant or deny the application for benefits, or weigh in on the issues involved in the case and remand the case to the administrative law judge for another decision.

Thus, the Appeals Council is the final arbiter of SSD benefits within the administrative system. The only recourse an applicant would have should the council deny a request for review, or find against the applicant after reviewing the case, is to file a civil lawsuit in federal court. Anyone with an inability to work due to a disability may want to decide how best to defend their right to benefits.

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