Filing a Claim in Federal Court

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Appeals in Massachusetts Federal Court

The experienced disability lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates have an impressive track record of successfully appealing denied benefits. For over 25 years, we have been dedicated to representing disabled individuals at every level of review, from reconsideration and administrative hearings to filing a claim in federal court. Our appellate practice has been critical to recovering benefits for workers injured in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Final Appellate Review

Review of decisions denying social security disability benefits is governed by federal law. The Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) sets forth a sequential evaluation and appeals process that requires claimants to “exhaust” their administrative remedies before filing a claim in federal court. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.938, this includes reconsideration by Disability Determination Services and hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). In 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published Rule 1-5-3-18, permitting review of unfavorable ALJ decisions by the Appeals Council. The appeals council issues the final administrative decision by the SSA. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981 gives claimants 60 days from receipt of the denial notice to file a complaint for judicial review with the U.S. district court.

Federal Court Authority

The district court’s authority to review a case is known as “jurisdiction.” Although federal court represents the highest level of appeal, the court’s jurisdiction is limited to reviewing the previous record to determine whether the decision was based on clear “errors of law” or “contrary to substantial evidence.” Unlike prior stages, the court is limited to taking the following actions:

  • Consider new evidence only in very limited circumstances
  • In rare cases, hear oral argument on parties’ motions for judgment
  • No new testimony. Evangelista v. Sec’y HHS, 826 F.2d (136 (1st Cir. 1987)
  • Uphold previous decision of the SSA; reverse the prior decision
  • Remand the case to the SSA for further administrative proceedings

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has held that claimants cannot raise new issues that were not previously addressed by the ALJ. Mills v. Apfel, 520 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2001). However, “issue preclusion” does not bar federal courts from hearing issues not raised before the Appeals Council. If the appeals council refused to review the prior decision, the court can only consider evidence that was presented to the ALJ to determine whether the denial was based on an “explicit mistake.”

Succeeding in a Federal Court Claim

If you are appealing a denial of benefits or an ALJ decision, contact the Massachusetts social security disability attorneys of Kantrovitz & Associates today. Favorable decisions require experienced representation and knowledgeable counsel. Based in Boston, for over 25 years we have thoroughly prepared administrative appeals records to support the reversal of denied benefits in federal court. Although the legal standard in federal court is very high, Kantrovitz & Associates has successfully met the challenge based on clear evidence and persuasive argument. As such, we have recovered substantial SSDI compensation for disabled claimants in Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, and other counties throughout the Commonwealth. Call (800) 367-0871 today for a free consultation or contact us online.