Brief History and Current Information about the Appeals Council

The Appeals Council is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia. As the last administrative decisional level, the Appeals Council renders the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) final decision.

Created on March 1, 1940 as a three-member body, the Appeals Council was established to oversee the hearings and appeals process, promote national consistency in hearing decisions made by referees (now Administrative Law Judges) and ensure that the Social Security Board's (now the Commissioner's) records were adequate for judicial review. The Appeals Council has grown over time due to the growth in the increasingly complex programs it reviews and the increased number of requests for review that it receives.

Currently, the Appeals Council is made up of approximately 68 Administrative Appeals Judges, 42 Appeals Officers, and several hundred support personnel. The Appeals Council is physically located in Falls Church, Virginia with additional offices in Crystal City, Virginia, and in Baltimore, Maryland. Cases originate in hearing offices throughout the country. The Appeals Council looks at each case in which a request for review is filed (over 172,000 in fiscal year 2013). The Appeals Council may grant, deny, or dismiss a request for review. If the Appeals Council grants the request for review, it will either decide the case or return ("remand") it to an Administrative Law Judge for a new decision.

The Council also performs quality review, policy interpretations, and court-related functions. The Appeals Council is the core component of the Office of Appellate Operations, one of the parts of SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The Office of Appellate Operations provides professional and clerical support for the Appeals Council, and also maintains and controls files in cases decided adversely to claimants by Administrative Law Judges and the Appeals Council, in case a further administrative or court appeal is filed. When a claimant brings a civil action against the Commissioner seeking judicial review of SSA's final decision, staff in the Office of Appellate Operations prepare the record of the claim for filing with the Court. This includes all the documents and evidence SSA relied upon in making the decision or determination.