I am out the door for another remand hearing before the Social Security Administration Office of Hearings Operations in Portland, Oregon. This hearing resulted from an appeal to the Appeals Council from a prior Unfavorable Decision. We lost at hearing the first time when we received an Unfavorable Decision, and appealed the case to the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council sent this case back for another hearing.
How We Got Here
After we received the Unfavorable Decision, we filed an appeal with the Appeals Council. This is a Social Security office in Falls Church, Virginia, and handles all appeals of Social Security Disability hearings in the United States. The Appeals Council is split into several "branches." This is because the case law on how Social Security claims are decided varies in different parts of the country.
The Appeals Council is looking for two things: legal errors and factual errors. Legal errors occur when the Administrative Law Judge misapplies the law. Factual errors occur when the Judge does not have evidence to support a factual finding, or misconstrues the evidence in the claims file. The Appeals Council will also look to see if the hearings Judge's mistake is a difference maker. That is a mistake that could make a difference in the case's outcome.
If the Appeals Council finds a mistake, it could find the Claimant disabled, but that does not happen very often. Instead, if the Appeals Council finds a mistake, it will send the case back to the Administrative Law Judge that heard the case. When it does, the Appeals Council will issue an Remand Order. In this Order, the Appeals Council tells the Administrative Law Judge what it must do to correct the errors.
If the Appeals Council refuses to review the case, then the Claimant can appeal the decision the the federal court. If a federal court judge finds an error, that judge may send the case back to the hearings judge.
How The Remand Hearing is Different
Because this is a second, and sometimes a third hearing, the hearing is different. We have already been through this once, so a lot of things have been covered the first time around. The Administrative Law Judge is working under the Appeals Council's Remand Order. Some Remand Orders are specific, and the Administrative Law Judge may only have to resolve a specific issue. Some Remand Orders are a "do-over" Order because they are broad, and will instruct the Judge to review the whole case.
Facing the Judge You "Reversed"
When a lawyer gets an appeals court or council to send a case back, they will say that "I got the judge reversed." In Social Security hearings, the case goes back to the same judge that you "got reversed." Some Judges have no problem with that, and others might. I have seen Administrative Law Judges apologize to my client for their mistake, which is admirable.
In today's case, a lot has happened during the course of the appeal. We have updated medical records, obtained another witness statement, and are ready to go.
We do not typically take on a case that is before the Appeals Council, but if a case has been remanded, and you have questions, contact us. We can tell you where you stand.