Information About Requesting Review of an Administrative Law Judge's Hearing Decision

The Appeals Council is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia with additional offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Crystal City, Virginia. We want to provide you with useful information regarding the Appeals Council and requesting review of an Administrative Law Judge's hearing decision.

The Appeals Council review process generally begins after an application for benefits has been denied at the initial, reconsideration, and hearing levels. If you disagree with the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, you may file a request for review with the Appeals Council.

Learn more about the Appeals Council.

How to Request an Appeals Council Review

You must request review in writing, within 60 days of receiving the hearing decision (HA-520-U5). You should send it directly to:

Appeals Council, SSA/ODAR
5107 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3255

You can also contact your local Social Security office, local hearing office, or call our toll-free telephone number (1-800-772-1213) and fill out a request for review form.

Form HA-520-U5, Request for Hearing Review

Time Limits for Appeal

Generally, you have 60 days after you receive the notice of our decision to ask for any type of appeal.
  • In counting the 60 days, we presume that you receive the notice five days after we mail it unless you can show that you received it later.

  • If you do not appeal on time, the Appeals Council may dismiss your appeal. This means that you may not be eligible for the next step in the appeal process and that you may also lose your right to any further review.

  • You must have a good reason if you wait more than 60 days to request an appeal.  If you file an appeal after the deadline, you must explain the reason you are late and request that we extend the time limit. The people in the Social Security office can explain further and help you file a written request to extend the time limit. The Appeals Council will consider your request and decide whether to extend the time limit.

What happens when you request review of an Administrative Law Judge's hearing decision?

The Appeals Council looks at all requests for review, but it may deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was correct. If the Appeals Council decides to review your case, it will either decide your case itself or return it to an Administrative Law Judge for further review. When the Appeals Council reviews your case it may consider any of the issues considered by the Administrative Law Judge, including those issues that were favorably decided in your case. You will receive a copy of the Appeals Council's final action on your case.

Tips on how to shorten the request for review process

  • Make sure you request review within 60 days after you receive the hearing decision. If you are unable to meet this deadline, explain your reasons for missing it in your request.

  • Submit any additional evidence and/or comments you have with the request for review, if possible.

  • You and your representative should make requests for copies of hearing recordings and exhibits only if you really need these items for your appeal.

  • We request that you do not make automatic, multiple requests for the status of your request for review. You can verify that the Appeals Council has received the request through your local Social Security office, local hearing office or by calling our Congressional and Public Affairs Branch staff (1-703-605-8000) or our general inquiries staff at our toll-free telephone number (1-800-772-1213).

Your Right to Representation

You may want a lawyer, friend, or other qualified person to represent you. The people at the Social Security office can help you if you have trouble finding a representative or if you cannot afford one. If you decide to have a representative, you need to tell us by filling out a special form, available at any Social Security office. You can also get this form by following the link below.

Form SSA-1696-U4, Appointment of Representative

If you have a representative, you may have to pay his or her fees. For more information about representation and about the fees a representative may charge, refer to "Information About Representation."

What happens when you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision?

If you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision, or if the Appeals Council decides not to review your case, you would then have to go to the last level of the appeals process which would be to file a civil suit in a federal district court. If you bring a civil action seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) final decision, our staff will prepare the record of the claim for filing with the Court. This includes all the documents and evidence SSA relied upon in making the decision or determination. There is a fee for filing a civil action in Federal court.

Appeals Council Request for Review Statistics

We had 161,070 requests for review pending at the end of fiscal year 2012 (September 2012)

We received 173,849 requests for review (adjusted receipts) during fiscal year 2012 (October 2011 - September 2012)

We processed 166,020 requests for review fiscal year 2012 (October 2011 - September 2012)

The average processing time was 395 days (October 2011 - September 2012)