Your chances of winning your Social Security disability case actually do not improve if you are denied by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and you decide to take your case to the Appeals Council (AC). In fact, your chances of success actually decreases significantly.
So, if you lose again at the AC, then what is there to do?
Believe it or not, overall, your chances of success increase somewhat once you decide to take your case to federal district court. The numbers vary, but about one in three to about fifty-percent of those who appeal their case to federal court receive some type of favorable decision.
What you have to remember more so than anything, is that you only have 60 days in which to file your case with the federal district court in which you live. You can ask the AC for more time, but you may not be granted it unless there is a real good reason for not doing so.
First, you need to find out what federal district you live in. For most of my clients in Dallas and Los Angeles areas, they will either be in the Northern or Eastern Federal District of Texas and the Central Federal District of California. So, this should at least help you get started.
Second, on all the federal district websites, there is a place for pro se plaintiffs. If you feel you do not need an attorney (big mistake by the way), you have the option of simply filling out the forms and sending them into the district court clerk's office. If you do have the financial ability to pay the filing fee, you will be required to submit $400.00 with your appeal.
Next, you will then serve the Commissioner of Social Security through SSA's Office of General Counsel, the U.S. Attorney's office in the district in which you live, and the Attorney General of the United States. The federal district court clerk will also usually help you do this as well.
Finally, you need to understand what you are actually appealing to the district court level. The judge who hears your case will not go on a fact finding mission to review your case. He or she will only look at your case for two possible errors: (1) the judge ignored substantial evidence in your case; or (2) he or she made an error in regards to the law. You really have to keep this in mind when making an argument that the ALJ and the AC got it wrong.
By the way, be very polite and respectful in making your case. If your case is remanded back to the same judge, you just may be facing him or her again. There is nothing wrong with saying, "I respectfully disagree with your decision and here is why." However, bad mouthing or being disrespectful about the judge is telling everyone you do not respect the legal process. I understand you are frustrated at this point, but you still have to play by the rules.
We represent claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability rights. If you need help, you can always reach us at: (888) 780-9125.