I just received an Appeals Council decision vacating an unfavorable ALJ decision and remanding the claim for a new hearing. The Appeals Council did the right thing.
This was an unusual case, because there was a obvious error in the judge's unfavorable decision. The judge's decision reasoned that, since the claimant had no records of mental health treatment for the 14 months prior to the hearing, the claimant's statements about the severity of her mental impairments were not fully credible. That is a fairly common conclusion.
The problem with the judge's decision is that I had submitted the recent mental health records. Further, I submitted the medical records via Social Security's electronic records express, so I had proof of submission of the medical records. For whatever reason, the judged overlooked those records. The Appeals Council has now vacated the decision and remanded the claim for a new hearing.
The Appeals Council offers relief for a significant number of claims. The Appeals Council review process is particularly effective when you can point to clear-cut errors (as in this case). It also helps to write a very focused Appeals Council brief.