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Tucson Social Security Disability Blog

Fresh Evidence That Appealing An ALJ's Decision Is Likely A Waste Of Time

Posted by John Kuhnlein | Aug 02, 2018 | 0 Comments

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

I Got Your Decision Right Here

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

Is Anybody Looking?

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. 

About the Author

John Kuhnlein

Since 1992, I have been helping the people of Southern Arizona get the benefits they are due. Before devoting all my efforts to assisting people with Social Security disability claims, I also handled such complex lawsuits as medical malpractice and products liability. I brought to my Social Security cases all the skills and attention to detail that I developed in the courtroom. I approach each Social Security disability case as if it were a million-dollar lawsuit. For the people trying to get Social Security benefits, their claim is every bit as important. Because I have personally handled so many Social Security cases, I have refined the skills I need to win your case for you. I have helped people win cases for every kind of ailment from arthritis to valley fever. At present, I am focused on helping those persons with neurological and orthopedic disorders. Because claims for people over age fifty bring additional complications, I particularly seek out those cases to work on. I regularly write about back and spine conditions on my blog. I actively seek out the latest information about orthopedic and neurological disorders to ensure I can represent my clients as effectively as possible. Because of my current focus, I regret that I am not able to take any cases for mental disorders. If you are over age fifty and suffer from any orthopedic or neurological disorder, please contact me at once.


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John Kuhnlein has been assisting people with Social Security disability claims for the past 25+ years.

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Feel free to call with any questions or concerns you have about Social Security disability. I never charge for a consultation. In fact, there is no charge at all until we win your case. Unlike most lawyers, I never charge extra for things like telephone calls or making copies.