What Is a Disability Appeal Like in Federal Court?

Federal Court appeals are very complex, and the details of what is involved in appealing a Social Security case to Federal Court can take up several books worth of information. This is just a short outline of what you can expect if your case is denied by the Appeals Council and you have to appeal to Federal Court.

If you are denied by the Appeals Council and would like to appeal, you must file a case in Federal District Court within 6o days from the date you receive your Appeals Council denial. This generally means that you have 65 days from the date of the denial.

First, you should know that there is a filing fee to appeal your case to Federal District Court. In some cases, the Court may be willing to waive the fee, but you have to ask them to do that in writing.

The Federal Court system has an electronic filing system. This is their preferred way to receive documents. You can learn about the system on your court’s website.

Filing your case in Federal District Court:

To file a case in Federal District Court, you must file what is called a complaint. This gives the Court a summary of why you are appealing. You then have to serve the complaint on the government agency you are suing, which is the Social Security Administration.

The government’s lawyer files an answer in response to your complaint. This is their summary of why your denial should be upheld. They will also provide you and the Court with a copy of your exhibit file and a written transcript of your hearing(s). These are usually provided in electronic format.

Written legal arguments must be submitted to the court. A briefing schedule is set and approved by the Court.

Briefs filed in Federal District Court:

• You (the Plaintiff) have to submit what is called an Opening Brief.
• The Defendant files a Response Brief where they explain why your arguments are wrong, and why theirs are right.
• The Plaintiff can then file a Reply Brief. This allows you to address any arguments raised by the Defendant in their brief. Our firm always files a Reply Brief.

The Court may request Oral Argument in your case. If this is happens, your attorney and the government’s attorney argue your case in front of the Judge who will decide your case. No one is allowed to testify and no new evidence is presented.

Once all the briefs are filed, and the oral argument is over, the Judge will decide your case. It can take up to a year (sometimes longer) to get a decision from a Federal Court Judge. These judges handle many different types of cases and have an extremely heavy case load.

Once the judge decides your case they may:

• Remand it (send it back) to SSA for more development of your case,
• Affirm SSA’s decision to deny your case, or
• Reverse SSA’s decision and award benefits to you.

If you lose in Federal District Court, you can appeal to your Federal Circuit Court. The process in Circuit Court is similar, but the filing fee is much higher.

Appealing your case to Federal Court is a complex process that is best handled by an attorney who is admitted to practice in Federal Court.


This blog is a public resource for general information. This blog and the materials provided in it have been prepared by Spencer Law Firm for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. No client or other reader should rely on, act on or refrain from acting based on information contained in this website without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.