When a claim for Social Security disability benefits is denied by an Administrative Law Judge, the individual can file an appeal to the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration.
Last year I wrote a blog asserting that the Appeals Council should be abolished. See http://www.paletta.org/disabilitylawblog/eight-reasons-abolish-appeals-council/ An additional year of data indicates the problem with the Appeals Council has become even worse. The dismiss/deny rate of the Appeals Council for 2014 increased from 82% to 85%.
It still takes 15 months for the Appeals Council to make a decision. This 15 month period is a hardship on individuals who have no income, often have no health insurance, and are struggling to survive.
A Federal Court reverses the Appeals Council’s decision almost 50% of the time. Judicial review is limited to determining whether the decision is supported by “substantial evidence” and whether the correct law was applied. If there is any rational basis for the denial, a Federal Court will affirm. Yet, almost 50% of the time a Federal Court reverses.
The individuals at the Appeals Council denying 85% of the appeals are NOT Judges and have no experience conducting disability hearings. Further, the decisions of the Appeals Council are not public. There is no accountability.
The Appeals Council needs to be abolished. Doing so will speed up the disability appeals process and save taxpayers millions of dollars.