Jarvis & Modun recently achieved a rare victory at the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is Social Security’s internal appellate body. It hears all appeals of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions from around the country. Rarely does the Appeals Council disagree with an ALJ’s decision. It is rarer still for it to disagree so much that it reverses an ALJ’s denial and awards benefits. Usually if the Appeals Council disagrees with the ALJ, it will send the claim back for a new hearing. However, Jarvis & Modun recently achieved a complete reversal from the Appeals Council.
The case involved a young woman who had serious physical and mental impairments. After a hearing, the ALJ denied her claim. He found that her physical impairments were severe, but not severe enough to prevent her from working. He found that her mental impairments were non-severe and had no affect on her ability to work. Jarvis & Modun appealed the mental health findings because all doctors had said that these impairments were, in-fact, severe.
On appeal, the Appeals Council took the rare step of sending the evidence to its own medical expert. This expert was a psychologist who found that not only were the mental impairments severe, they were so severe that the claimant met Social Security’s listings 12.04 and 12.06 for depression and anxiety. The claimant was thus presumptively disabled, and the Appeals Council granted her claims.