How long does it take to get an Appeals Council decision?

If you have been denied at your Social Security hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you may end up having to file an appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council.  

In my experience handling Social Security disability cases in Colorado, it can take between 6 – 18 months to get a decision back from the Appeals Council.  

However, even if you “win” the appeal, that is not the end of your case. In the vast majority of cases, the Appeals Council does not approve benefits outright.  Normally, they simply send the case back for another hearing with instructions to the ALJ on what should be done next time.  

When your case gets sent back to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), it may take another 6-18 months for the second hearing to be scheduled.  

Altogether, you may be looking at 12 to 36 months before you get another chance to present your case even if you “win” your case at the Appeals Council!

Note:  wait times at the Appeals Council, and particularly at the various ODAR offices around the country, vary quite a bit, so take this estimate with a grain of salt and get up to date information from a lawyer in your area.

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Disclaimer: This is NOT legal advice. This site provides general information about Social Security disability cases in Colorado. To discuss your particular circumstances, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please review the full disclaimer .

About Tomasz Stasiuk

Tomasz Stasiuk is a Colorado Springs Social Security disability lawyer and the founding attorney of the Stasiuk Firm - a law firm specializing in Social Security disability cases in Colorado. Follow Tomasz Stasiuk on Google and Twitter

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  • timburton

    ssi March 1st 2009, Iam legally aware of the back pay for 24 months. so could you please let me know when it will be possible. Thank you for your time.

  • timburton

    ssi March 1st 2009, Iam legally aware of the back pay for 24 months. so could you please let me know when it will be possible. Thank you for your time.

  • terecehmills

    I'm trying to figure out what's going on with my case…..I received my UNFAVORABLE decision April 8, 2010…I submitted my written appeal to the council April 10, 2010, I called on the 15th and they told me it wuld be 2-3 months……SHE FOUND MY APPEAL! THAT DAY! SATURDAY I RECEIVED A FORM FROM THE APPEALS COUNCIL—-BOX 11 IS CHECKED FOR INTIAL ENTITLEMENT?????WHY IS THIS GOING SO QUCKLY AND WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

  • leslie benton

    MY APPEAL CASE AT THE APPEAL COUNCIL IN VIRGINIA IS STATUS CRITICAL,WHAT DOES THAT MEAN,GOOD OR BAD..HOPEFULLY GOOD..

  • http://www.ColoradoSocialSecurityLaw.com TomaszStasiuk

    Hopefully good (and hopefully fast!)

  • leslie benton

    I WAS TOLD THAT MY CASE WAS CONSIDER CRITICAL STATUS,WHAT NOW..OR DIRE NEED…

  • http://www.ColoradoSocialSecurityLaw.com TomaszStasiuk

    The Appeals Council very rarely outright approves cases. They can, but it does not happen very often. The AC usually reviews the ALJ's decision to see if it legally holds up. If there is enough legal error in the decision, the AC remands (send back) the case to the hearing level so *another* hearing can be done. The AC can also provide instructions to the ALJ describing what needs to be done to correct the error(s).

    I have more information about what happens at the Appeals Council here: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2008/09/ho

  • leslIEBENTON

    my appeal was granted by the AC ,the AC asking the ALJ TO MAKE A NEW DECISION,my case is a dire need.It was an error in my hearing,so my case have been sent back to the ALJ for a new decision hopefully thats good,and hopefully fast.

  • leslIEBENTON

    MY CASE IS AT THE ALJ(ODAR).IT WAS SENT BACK FOR AMANDMENT ORDER TO CHANGE THE DECISION,SO PATIENTLY WAITING(ITS A DIRE NEED CASE SO HOPEFULLY SOON.)I'M HOPING THE ALJ JUST APPROVE IT SO I CAN MOVE ON…

  • leslIEBENTON

    THE APPEAL GRANTED MY REVIEW AND SENT BACK TO THE ALJ FOR A NEW DECISION;THATS GREAT A NEW DECISION MEANS “FAVORABLE”BUT WHEN SOON I HOPE…THANKS

  • leslIEBENTON

    DID YOU HAVE AND ATTORNEY WHEN YOU FILED YOUR APPEAL OR YOU DID IT ON YOUR ON..IF BOX 11 WAS CHECKED YOU WON THE APPEAL .I GUESS..

  • Bustbrown05

    what about appealing an onset date for which a person has become disabled..how long does that take?

  • Nicole

    I have a case with critical status as well. Would you mind telling me whether this means an approval? How long did it take for you to get benefits and all?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    My understanding is that cases marked “critical” get priority processing.
    http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2008/10/speeding-up-a-social-security-case-for-dire-need/

    However, a “critical” case does not necessarily have a better chance of being approved.

  • JoyLynn

    I had an auto accident in 2006, my doctors have had me off work ever since. Until 2years ago when I changed doctors, my dr put me off for 3 months at a time. My new doctor as of 7 years ago stated I am permantly disabled. I did try to go back to work in 2010 on my own and got hurt in a 3 wk period pretty badly. I have degenertive disc, bone, spinal stenosis, siaticia,scolious, fibromyalgia, arthritis, osteopeposis,migraines, anxiety, A rebuilt elbow from a fall from my back locking. I am on many meds, can’t sit longer than 20min, stand for 10, walk for 5, no lifting,no uneven surfaces or exposure to temp changes. I can’t leave the house longer than a couple hours without putting myself down for weeks. I fall all of the time and hurt myself, can’t go out with an escort. Just got yet again another denial after second time in front of judge at morgantown Wv. I’ve had 2 failed suicide attemps lost the home I owned and an currently homeless with my 5 children. I just don’t know what to do. The last hearing they said I can run a machine loading it. LOL, You’ve got to be kidding me. How can I do that when I can”t drive all the time, am always dizzy like I am drunk, not mention my meds say do not operate machinary, guess these 70,000 jobs have in float in a magic temp control bubble, don’t have stairs, on require looking at an objet to load it into a machine. My hearing before that they said there wasn’t any jobs I could do. I am fed up Iworked 2-3 jobs at atime until my accident. Only missed 3 days work after giving birth and They act like I want to live without anything and homeless. Now do I send this to the appeals council, or refile, or just take the fastest solution and end my life so my kids can have the money I busted my ass paying into?

  • joylynn

    meant as of 2 years ago my doctor stated permantly disabled.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberley.richey.9 Kimberley Richey

    is it true that they only give you a year of your back pay? i filed in 2009 if i win will i get all my back pay?

  • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk