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After an SSD benefits denial, how does the Appeals Council work?

For New Jersey residents who are injured, ill or suffering from a condition that makes it impossible for them to work, Social Security disability benefits can be integral to their life. It can provide them with financial resources needed to make ends meet until they are able to try and work again. Unfortunately, it is a harsh reality that some claimants are initially denied SSD benefits. This can be a troubling time for people who were counting on being approved for SSD benefits. There are, however, four levels of appeal to try and have the initial decision changed so there will be an approval.

After reconsideration and a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge, there is a chance to bring the case to the Appeals Council. This is the third step in an appeal. Should the Appeals Council not yield a positive result, there is still a chance to file in federal court. The Appeals Council does not automatically hear an appeal -- it must agree to review it. If it agrees, the claimant or a representative can ask to appear before the council to present oral arguments. More evidence to bolster the case can be provided. Should the Appeals Council decide that there is a legal or policy issue that would be helped by the oral arguments, it will allow the appearance. Written statements can also be filed.

If there is dissatisfaction with the result of the Appeals Council, the next step is a federal lawsuit. This civil filing must be made within 60 days of the claimant being informed of the decision or having been denied a review request. The court can affirm the judgment, modify the judgment or reverse a previous decision.

The Appeals Council is an important part of trying to have a disability denial changed to an approval. Of course, it is preferable to have the claim approved from the start. It is important to remember that many cases are denied when they are initially filed, and an appeal can be successful in helping the person get benefits. The Appeals Council review is part of that.

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