If the Social Security Appeals Council denied your Request for Review, the next step in the appeals process is filing a civil action in Federal District Court. A Social Security Federal District Court lawyer is essential at this stage. The process of appealing a disability case to the Federal District Court is incredibly difficult and complex. Most lawyers do not even file appeals in the Federal District Court. It’s extremely important that if you proceed to this level of appeal, you do so with the help of an experienced Social Security Federal District Court lawyer.
How to file a Social Security appeal to Federal District Court?
If you receive an unfavorable decision from the Appeals Council or a denial of Request for Review, you have sixty (60) days to file a Complaint in Federal District Court. Every District has its own procedures. There is no uniform procedure and there is no uniform Complaint. If you are filing a Complaint, you must know the specific rules of the District Court in which you’re filing.
If there was an easy “how to” guide that we could provide, we would, but honestly, the process for filing a Complaint varies widely from District to District. For example, we can file a Complaint in the Middle District of Pennsylvania online, but in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania we must file the Complaint by paper and must include a CD with the documents.
The easiest way to file an appeal to the Federal District Court is to seek the guidance of a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer who can help you.
There is a filing fee for filing an appeal to the Federal District Court unless you meet the financial requirements to have the fee waived. We would generally ask you to fill out the appropriate forms to request fee waiver if appropriate. Here’s a sample form.
What is the Social Security Federal District Court process?
The first step in the Social Security Federal District Court process is the filing of a Complaint. The Complaint must be filed in the District Court in which you live at the time you are filing the Complaint. In other words, you do not file the Complaint in the District Court where you lived at the time of the hearing nor do you file in the District in which the hearing office is located. You file in the District Court in which you are currently living. To find out what District Court your case should be filed in, you can check the U.S. Marshal’s District Court list.
Much like the Appeals Council, the Federal District Court is generally not looking to see if you are disabled. Instead, the Court is looking to see if the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial evidence or if there was an error of law. This can be a confusing concept, but the District Court allows for some level of discretion amongst the ALJs. It is possible for you to win with one judge and lose with another. Unless the judge’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence or contains an error of law, the District Court will not rule in your favor.
This is one of the most confusing parts about the Federal District Court process. In most cases, new evidence will not be reviewed. Your Social Security Federal District Court lawyer is simply making high level legal arguments about your case.
What happens after I file a Social Security appeal in Federal District Court?
Generally, after you file the Complaint, the Federal District Court will issue a Summons which must be served on the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Attorney for the District in which you filed, and the Attorney General of the United States of America.
After the Complaint has been served, the Social Security Administration has sixty (60) days to file an Answer. In most Districts, the Social Security Administration will also file a complete copy of the “administrative record”. The “administrative record” is a complete copy of everything that was in your Social Security file. This includes your medical records, all administrative documents, and a transcript of the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge.
From this point, every District is very different. In some Districts, you are required to file a “Motion for Summary Judgment” and “Brief in Support” explaining your position on the appeal. In other Districts, no Motion is required, you simply file a Brief.
The complexity of the Brief cannot be understated. An experienced Social Security Federal District Court lawyer takes anywhere between 20 and 30 hours to file an average size Brief. That is an experienced attorney. Imagine if you’ve never done this before. This is no small task. The Brief is often between 20 and 30 pages of complex legal argument
After you file your Brief, the Social Security Administration will file a Response Brief. This is their opportunity to explain why the Social Security Administration made the decision on your case and why you should not get benefits or a new hearing.
In most Districts, you would have an opportunity to file a Reply Brief in which you can respond to the Administration’s argument.
In some Districts, after the briefing is closed, the judge may ask for oral argument. This is a chance for your Social Security Federal District Court lawyer to explain why the decision in your case was incorrect. Not all Districts or judges ask for oral argument though. Many make a decision based solely on the briefs.
How long does the Federal District Court take in a Social Security appeal?
How long the Federal District Court takes in a Social Security appeal can vary widely. In most cases, from the time a Complaint is filed until the time briefs are submitted is about six months. Generally, that would be the minimum length of time for a District Court case. Once the case is submitted for decision, it really depends on the complexity of the case and the judge’s workload.
Sometimes, the decision comes very quickly. Other times, we must wait well over a year for a decision.
District Court judges do not handle Social Security claims only. They handle every type of Federal Court case including criminal cases, tax cases, bankruptcy cases, immigration cases, etc. They are very, very busy. Every judge does their best to get to your case quickly, but sometimes, it does take over a year.
What are the odds of winning a Social Security case in Federal District Court?
It is imperative that you hire a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer who is familiar with the particular District Court in which you file. This is hard for people to imagine, but the law can vary from state to state and District to District. For example, it is possible that a person could win on an issue in Maryland and lose on the same issue in Pennsylvania. It’s even possible to win with a particular judge in one District and lose to another judge in that District.
Thus, your odds of success are directly dependent upon the nature of your appeal, the law of the District in which you filed, and the judge to which you are assigned. Your Social Security Federal District Court lawyer would be able to give you an idea if that lawyer practices in Federal District Court regularly.
From a statistical standpoint though, Federal District Courts remand nearly half of the cases they review. But some districts remand cases at a much higher rate than others.
What happens if I win a Social Security case in Federal District Court?
In most cases, “winning” at the Federal District Court does not mean you get benefits. It means that you get a “remand hearing”. That means that the Federal District Court sends your case back to an ALJ for a new decision. In most cases, it will be sent back to the same judge that denied you in the first place. The only saving grace here is that the Federal District Court will tell the ALJ what the ALJ did wrong and instruct them to fix their mistake.
Unfortunately, even with these instructions, sometimes an ALJ will deny your case again. This would force you to either file “exceptions” to the Appeals Council or file another Complaint in Federal District Court.
What happens if I lose a Social Security case in Federal District Court?
If you disagree with the Federal District Court’s decision, your next step is to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals. This is a very complicated process. Very few cases are appealed to this level for a number of reasons. The Court of Appeals does not generally overturn District Court decisions unless there is a major error. A Social Security Federal District Court lawyer will only recommend an appeal to the Court of Appeals in the strongest of cases.
Do I need a Social Security Federal District Court Lawyer?
While you can certainly file a Complaint without a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer, this isn’t recommended. The law and procedure are incredibly complex. In fact, if you try to file a Complaint without a lawyer, the judge will almost always recommend that you hire a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer. In many cases, the judge may have you call the Federal Bar Association for a referral to a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer who can assist you.
Remember, the Federal District Court does not hold you to a lower standard just because you are not a lawyer. That means that even though you do not have a law degree, you are expected to file the same 20 to 30 page complex legal brief outlining your position. Failure to properly explain your position can result in your claim being denied.
Worse yet, if you are not an experienced Social Security Federal District Court lawyer, you will likely miss the biggest issues in your case. Even lawyers who handle disability claims often miss issues in Federal District Court. It is a very different process that requires a very specific skill set.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, take a look at the Social Security Administration’s top 10 remand reasons in 2019:
If the reasons cases are remanded do not make sense to you, you are not alone. This is complicated stuff and honestly, it’s not expected that you handle a case at this level without a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer. We have litigated all of these issues in Federal District Court and are deeply familiar with how these issues are applied. But we do this every day. It’s not expected that you would know this. That’s why you need a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer .
How is a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer paid?
Social Security Federal District Court lawyers are typically paid by contingency fee. That means that no money is due up front and no money is due unless you win. In most cases, the attorney will charge a 25% contingency fee. This applies to your past due benefits and not to the money you would get moving forward.
Here’s the best part though. If the Social Security Administration’s position is not substantially justified, the Social Security Administration has to pay a portion of your attorney’s fees. The law that requires this is called the “Equal Access to Justice Act” or EAJA. Under EAJA, your Social Security Federal District Court lawyer can request fees at a modified hourly rate which would ultimately be credited against the 25% contingency fee.
In other words, you have nothing to lose by hiring a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer.
Contact ARM Lawyers today
In order to ensure that your claim has the highest chance possible of your appeal being granted, you should have a Social Security Federal District Court lawyer who knows the system.
Patrick J. Best of ARM Lawyers has helped thousands of individuals get their disability benefits. To get started on filing your Complaint in the Federal District Court today, call our offices now at 570-503-6255. The best part is that we can start the whole process over the phone or by video conference so you don’t even need to come into the office!