In most cases, when a Social Security Disability Claims Office denies your request to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you have the option to appeal the decision. This is accomplished through a process called reconsideration. After you’ve been denied, you or your attorney have 60 days to file a “Request for Reconsideration.”
If you don’t agree with the result of the reconsideration, you may then request a hearing in front of a judge. While it may seem intimidating to testify at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, your attorney prepares you for the appearance and helps you feel at ease.
Below, you’ll find three bits of information to help you understand more about your first disability claim hearing.
1. It Takes a Team to Handle SSD Appeals
There are many people behind the scenes working on your case from the moment your claim is filed until you receive your written decision from the judge. First, a case technician retrieves your files and reviews them to make sure all documentation necessary to make a decision is present. Then, a senior attorney sorts your case before sending it to the judge.
The senior attorney decides if your case needs more evidence. He or she is allowed to make a decision about your case without a hearing. If your case must go to a hearing, a case technician will organize your file and number each document to serve as a permanent record. The case tech will also sort all of your medical records from the first to last date so the judge may more easily see the progression of your illness or injury over time.
One of the 1,500 administrative law judges (ALJs) employed by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) is then assigned to review your case. ALJs sometimes make decisions without conducting hearings. After the review or after your hearing, a decision writer drafts a
written decision notice based on the ALJ’s instructions. Once the ALJ approves the notice, it’s mailed to you.
2. The Hearing is Straightforward
First, the hearing process is carefully explained to you by the ALJ. Judges know you may be nervous or not feeling well, so they want you to fully understand what happens during your moment in the hearing. The judge will go over the progress of your case through the system, and he or she will note the issues involved in your particular situation.
The hearing is recorded, providing evidence for the ALJ and for any future appeals. You’ll be sworn in, just like on TV, vowing to tell the truth about your condition and eligibility for SSD benefits. The judge will then question you about the medical and work issues you’re facing. Some of these issues include:
- Your medical condition
- Any pain you’re suffering
- Your daily activities
- Medication side effects
- Your general sense of well-being
Any new evidence in your case
Next, your own social security disability attorney will ask you questions about your case. The attorney wants to emphasize your level of impairment or disability in front of the judge to get you the most favorable outcome.
Your attorney presents to the judge any and all evidence they believe is in your favor. Next, the judge may call additional experts, including vocational and medical specialists, to give evidence on your ability to work. The judge and your attorney ask the experts questions about the likelihood of your finding a job given your age, education, restrictions, and work history. Questions are asked about how many qualifying jobs are available to you in your area.
Your attorney will be given a final chance to present evidence and arguments on your behalf. The judge may make an instant determination at the hearing. However, most ALJs wish to review their cases further before issuing their decisions.
3. Expect to Wait for a Hearing
Because of the sheer volume of SSD cases under appeal at any given time across the nation, it may be months before you’re scheduled for a hearing in front of the ALJ.
The ALJ takes a fresh look at your case, without basing a decision on past determinations. The ALJ in your case may want you to have a repeat medical or occupational suitability test done, which further delays your hearing date. You may think this is a waste of time, but a brand new test helps the ALJ see the progress of your illness. A new test may also be more thorough and reliable than the state’s tests.
You and your attorney will receive notification of the hearing date well in advance. You’re provided with instructions on how to confirm that you’ll be present at the hearing. If you don’t confirm, they’ll attempt to contact you by phone. If you must miss a hearing and show good cause for doing so, the ALJ may reschedule the hearing for you.
Hiring an experienced Social Security Disability attorney is the best way to navigate the appealing process. Call the experts at Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law today to build your case and prepare for your SSD appeal hearing.