When a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denies a disability benefits applicant, the applicant's first thought is to appeal. The denied applicant often finds all sorts of errors when reading the unfavorable decision. This naturally leads to the thought of having the Appeals Council (AC) review the ALJ's decision and set him right.
88% Chance Of Losing
Good idea. But, in practice, it is turning more and more into a dead end. New numbers from the Social Security Administration show
that for 2017, only 12% of all appeals resulted in the AC sending the case back to the ALJ for another hearing. That is 12% of the cases that an applicant or her lawyer thought was worthy of an appeal. Less than one-third of
all ALJ unfavorable decisions result in an appeal. This suggests that the AC is not correcting even the worst ALJ decisions.
An Informal Policy To Deny Appeals?
It is possible, I suppose, that ALJs have gotten so good at their jobs that the AC has little reason to send cases back to them for do-overs. The more likely explanation is that the AC has adopted, at least informally, a policy of not granting relief on appeals except in the most extreme cases. By rejecting almost 90% of all appeals, the AC is sending a pretty clear message: Don't bother, you are not going to prevail.
A Green Light For More Terrible ALJ Decisions?
The lack of any real oversight of ALJs by the AC means that it is more important than ever to win at the hearing level. The ALJs know that the AC has abandoned their review duties. A few ALJs will take this as an excuse to deny a case for any reason, whether supported by the facts or the law. I don't recommend you take the risk of this happening to you. That means hiring a good, local lawyer to assist you when you apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Have you filed an appeal with the AC? What happened? Let me know.