Will the Federal District Court decide I am disabled, even if Social Security said I am not disabled?
An Appeal to Federal District Court is not a lawsuit about whether you are disabled. It is a lawsuit about whether the Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made mistakes in making his/her decision that you were not disabled. We will ask the Federal District Court to find that the ALJ's mistakes made his decision unfair and you deserve a new, fair hearing before an ALJ. The court generally does not decide whether you are disabled.
Can I submit new medical records to the Federal Court?
Usually, you cannot submit new medical evidence to the court. The court will decide whether the ALJ made mistakes based on the medical records and other evidence that the ALJ had at the time he made his decision. Sometimes medical records submitted at the hearing are not included in the official file of your case. We make sure to get all the relevant medical records in evidence, even if Social Security has lost or misplaced them.
Do you go to a hearing before the Federal Court?
Our arguments about the mistakes the ALJ made will be made only in writing. We make our arguments first. SSA's lawyer will make written arguments defending the ALJ's decision, and then we are allowed to file a written response to their arguments. We will mail copies of our arguments to you. After all of the attorneys' arguments, the court will make a written decision.
How long does a Federal Court appeal take?
On average, the Federal court case will take about 18 months. Some cases are shorter; some cases are longer. But generally, from the time we file your lawsuit until the district court judge makes a decision is about a year and a half.
What happens after the Court grants a new hearing?
Your case will be returned to your attorney or representative when the Court grants a new hearing. We will provide all the court documents to your attorney / representative and suggestions about preparation for the remand hearing, if needed. If you did not have an attorney or representative at your first hearing, we will help you get representation at your new hearing.
How much does it cost to file the lawsuit?
The Federal District Court charges $350 to file an appeal. If you cannot afford to pay $350 to file the lawsuit, we can show the court your financial condition and ask that the filing fee be waived. We will fill out the papers for you with your help. If you do not qualify for a waiver, we will ask you to pay the filing fee.
How do I pay an attorney to represent me at the Federal District court?
You owe no attorney fees until benefits are awarded. We will petition the court to award attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). EAJA fees are paid by the government, not by you. When you are ultimately found "disabled", SSA will withhold 25% of your back pay to pay your attorneys. We will go back to the court to ask for an award of reasonable fees under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C ?406(b), which are paid directly by SSA out of your backpay award, after deduction of EAJA fees previously paid.