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ALJs are human and they can make mistakes. Sometimes deserving claimants are denied benefits after an administrative hearing because the ALJ decided the case incorrectly. If this happens to you, your case may be appropriate for further appeal to the Appeals Council and federal court. Our Minneapolis-St. Paul disability lawyers are skilled at handling federal court appeals. We are one of the few disability law firms in the Minnesota-St. Paul area that can take a claim from application to administrative hearing through a federal court appeal if necessary.
How a Minneapolis and St Paul disability lawyer decides if a case is appropriate for appeal to federal court
In evaluating whether your case is a good one for appeal to federal court, a Minneapolis or St Paul, Minnesota disability attorney / lawyer will consider four questions:
The first question is important because your case will probably be sent back for a new administrative hearing if the federal judge overturns the ALJ’s decision. At the new hearing, your Minneapolis disability lawyer will need to prove you are disabled, just as if this were your first hearing. Therefore, before appealing to federal court, your disability lawyer will want to develop a theory about why you are disabled based on the five-step sequential evaluation process.
The answers to the other three questions are important because a federal court appeal can be based on two limited grounds only. At your hearing before an administrative law judge, the judge looks at all the evidence in your case, applies Social Security law and regulations, and decides whether you are disabled. In federal court, the federal judge does something quite different.
Two grounds for federal court appeal
The federal judge doesn’t substitute his or her opinion for the ALJ’s. The federal judge looks only at whether the ALJ made certain mistakes in deciding your case that justify overturning the decision. Specifically, the federal judge will overturn the ALJ’s decision only if he or she decides that:
A federal judge could decide to overturn an ALJ’s decision to deny benefits if the judge concludes that the ALJ did not follow the Social Security Administration’s rules; interpreted the Social Security Act or regulations incorrectly; or failed to follow general legal principles.
If your Minneapolis or St Paul / Minnesota disability lawyer or attorney can identify any mistakes made by the ALJ, this ground is usually the stronger of the two grounds. However, a legal error by itself is not enough to get the federal judge to overturn the ALJ’s decision. Your disability lawyer will need to explain how the ALJ would have made a different decision if the ALJ had not made the legal error.
Substantial evidence is defined as evidence that a reasonable mind could accept as sufficient to support the decision. The federal judge’s job is to decide if there is enough evidence in your case for a reasonable person to decide that you are not disabled, even if the federal judge would decide the other way if it were up to him or her.
In preparing to argue this ground, a Minneapolis disability lawyer will carefully examine the evidence the ALJ relied on to support his or her decision. Does the evidence say what the ALJ says it says? Does the decision make sense? How much evidence is there contrary to the ALJ’s position? Does the ALJ adequately explain why evidence demonstrating disability was rejected?
How much evidence is enough to support the conclusion that you are not disabled? It’s hard to say and, for appeals based on this ground, a lot depends on the particular federal judge who decides your case. Some judges seem to bend over backwards to find substantial evidence to uphold the ALJ’s decision when there doesn’t seem to be much. Other judges find a lack of substantial evidence where there appears to be a lot of evidence supporting the ALJ’s decision.
Minneapolis / St. Paul Social Security disability attorney, lawyer offer experienced federal court representation
Our disability attorneys are skilled at representing Social Security disability claimants in federal court. If your claim has been denied after a hearing and you are not already represented by a Minneapolis-St. Paul disability lawyer, contact us for a case evaluation. Complete the form on this page, or telephone.
We handle SSI and Social Security disability cases in these Minnesota counties and communities: Counties: Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Anoka County, Carver County, Scott County, Dakota unty. Communities: Minneapolis, St Paul, Bloomington, Eagan, St Louis Park, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove,Brooklyn Park, Roseville, Woodbury, Hastings, Duluth, Alexandria, Brainerd, Rochester, St. Cloud, Mankato.