The Review Process
The Appeals Council review process generally begins after an application for benefits has been denied at the Initial, Reconsideration, and Hearing levels. An Appeals Council review is generally requested if you disagree with the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
However, unlike the Hearings level the entire review is based on a review of the Administrative record and there is no opportunity to meet or speak with the Judge face to face. This means that you must be able to identify the factual or legal error made by the Judge at hearing and explain in writing why the case should be reversed.
Time It Takes for the Appeals Council to Reach a Decision
Historically, the Appeals Council has been arguably the slowest parts of the Social Security Administration. Normally, it takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months to receive a decision from the Appeals Council. According to recent reports, however, the average processing time for receiving a decision is now 395 days, speeding up the process to just slightly over a year.
According to the Appeals Council, the length of time it takes to receive a decision depends on the:
- Number of decision-makers available to review cases;
- Total number of cases to review;
- Amount of evidence in the cases to review; and
- Difficulty of the cases.
Request a Review Immediately!
If you are denied benefits at the hearing level, you must request review of the decision within 60 days after you receive the hearing decision. Requesting a review in a timely fashion may help speed up the process as the Appeals Council generally reviews cases in the order it receives them.