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Who gets served on behalf of SSA in a lawsuit about benefits?

This blog has previously discussed the various way in which people who have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits by the Social Security Administration can go about getting that decision reviewed. To refresh, first the applicant would request a second, separate review of the application be the agency. Then, the applicant would request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. If the person is still denied, he or she can request review by the Appeals Council. If that body denies the application or refuses to review it, the only recourse an applicant would have is a lawsuit in federal court.

But, who gets sued? While there are some technical legal aspects to the actual way the lawsuit would be styled, the basic answer is that the SSA would be the defendant. One of the basic tenets of American law is that a defendant needs to have notice that he or she is being sued. This is done, usually, by service of process, which is often simply referred to as service. This entails getting someone, either a state agent, like a sheriff, or a private process server who is authorized to serve papers to personally deliver a copy of the lawsuit paperwork to the defendant. For service, the paperwork usually includes the complaint, which describes the allegations being made by the plaintiff, and the summons issued by the court that marks the official record of the beginning of a suit.

But, the SSA is a huge government organization. When a plaintiff files a suit based upon the denial of SSDI or SSI benefits, who gets served with the complaint and summons? The answer is that the agency has designated representatives, generally lawyers who work for the SSA, to receive the process. Where these designated representatives are located depends on where the suit is filed. In Ohio, for suits in either of the two federal districts, North or South, the summons and complaint would be served on the Office of the Regional Chief Counsel in Chicago.

Obviously, this is just the beginning of the legal process. There will likely be several proceedings that occur before a final trial is set on the matter. These steps can be confusing and complex, and it may be a good idea for people who have had their applications for disability benefits based on their inability to work denied to consider hiring an experienced Ohio disability attorney.

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