Home > Blog > Federal Court Review: The Final Appeal for Disability Benefits

Federal Court Review: The Final Appeal for Disability Benefits

March 2, 2023

Matthew Shupe is the Managing Attorney of our Appellate Advocacy Group at Balin Law. His life’s work is going to bat for people who have been wrongly denied their Social Security disability benefits. Matt specifically handles appeals at the highest levels; bringing cases to Appeals Council and then Federal Court.  Having fought and won many cases at the federal level, Matt joins us to explain more about the Federal Review process.

The Process of Appealing Disability Denial:  Step 1: Social Security Sends a Notice of Disapproved claim and You File a Reconsideration. Step 2: Social Security Sends a Notice of Reconsideration, "previous determination was proper" and You File a Request for hearing.  Step 3: Social Security Sends a Notice of Decision - Unfavorable and You File a Request for Review of Hearing. Step 4: Social Security Appeals Council denies review, You File a Civil Suit in Federal Court.

But first, a quick recap on the appeals process leading up to this stage.

The Process of Appealing a Social Security Disability Denial

As our infographic here shows, appeal #1 is the Request for Reconsideration. If your Reconsideration is unsuccessful, then appeal #2 would be a Request for Hearing. If the hearing judge’s decision is unfavorable, appeal #3 would be a Request for Review of Hearing. This review is done by the Appeals Council. If your case is denied or dismissed by the Appeals Council, the only remaining option is a Federal Review.

We review these stages in greater detail in our recent article about the Social Security appeals process.

When Does a Disability Appeal Go to Federal Court?

The Appeals Council is the final step within Social Security’s appeals process. The only option after Appeals Council is to sue the Social Security Administration (SSA) in federal court. This lawsuit is called a civil suit or civil action and it gets filed in a Federal District Court. It’s also referred to as “federal court litigation.” The SSA reviews the specifics of this process here, which they refer to as a Federal Court Review. Federal court litigation is the absolute last possible review of your case.

The following post is adapted from the transcript from this video (embedded above):

Suing the Social Security Administration with Federal Social Security Disability Lawyer, Matt Shupe

When your case has been appealed as far as it can be within the Social Security Administration (SSA), you then gain the right to sue the government in federal court. It may not have felt like it in the lead up to this, but technically, we’ve been working with Social Security and not against them. Well, at this time, the proceedings become adversarial and we could start working against them.

I enjoy doing the federal court work because I find it is the most thorough review of your file. And there is also an attorney on the other side, specifically the US Attorney’s Office who is arguing against us. So while I’m laying out the facts of your case and the mistakes of law that the disability judge who denied you had made, Social Security’s attorneys at the US Attorney’s Office are on the other side laying out their version of the facts of your case and explaining why the mistakes the disability judge made were not harmful to you and why the decision should stand. We’ve had great success in winning our client’s case at federal court level.

How long does it take to get a decision on a Social Security Disability Appeal from Federal Court?

From the time the complaint is filed to the time that we get a decision as to whether or not we’ve won, typically takes between 8 to 10 months. It is important to note that the federal court litigation is different than appearing before a Social Security judge because there’s no in-person hearing. It is, for the most part, arguments between plaintiff’s counsel, me, and defense counsel, Social Security’s attorneys going back and forth, describing to the federal judge who’s assigned to the case what went wrong or what went right depending on your viewpoint. It’s also important to note that a win in federal court does not mean that Social Security automatically grants you benefits.

Winning in Federal Court: Disability Hearing Decision Vacated and Remanded

When you “win” in Federal Court, the decision denying your case disappears; it’s vacated. The case goes back for a new hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), this time with the law applied properly. And when a case is remanded by a District Court in general, we have a higher likelihood of winning at that remand proceeding.

So we at Balin Law, we’re one of the few firms in Ohio that takes cases to federal court. I even look at cases that our office did not handle at earlier levels of review. So if you had a different attorney who withdrew after a denial by the judge or the Appeals Council, feel free to give me a call, shoot me an email. I’ll be happy to take a look and see if there’s any basis to go to federal court. If you believe in your case, don’t give up. Persistence pays.

Get your Free Case Review today!

If Social Security has denied your application for disability benefits, we’ll gladly review your case for free. Most clients never pay anything out of pocket; Social Security will pay us directly out of the money they owe you after we win your case.