Unfortunately, it is likely for your Social Security disability claim to be denied twice on the lower levels. After being denied at the reconsideration level, your claim will need to be heard in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). Social Security Disability hearings help determine how debilitating your condition is. The Social Security Administration uses these hearings to decide if your condition is too disabling to work. You have your best chance of winning at the hearing level. This post explains what happens at one of these hearings.
What are the disability hearings like?
Social Security disability hearings are typically short, lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. It is important to show up early to the hearing; without any ‘good cause’ for being late, the ALJ may not reschedule the hearing. Disability hearings are not like the trials you are used to seeing portrayed in media. SSD hearings are held in smaller conference rooms. And although these hearings appear a bit less formal than traditional court appearances, it is important to come prepared. These hearings are not open to the public so those present at your hearing include you, your representative (if you’ve obtained one), the ALJ, a hearing assistant (whose job is to record the hearing), and possibly one to two experts hired by the SSA.
After establishing who everyone in the room is by being sworn in, the ALJ will read a statement of facts about your SSDI/SSI application. Most judges will then question the claimant first. The questions are based around medical problems and treatment, past employment and the restrictions your condition imposes. Including examples of how your condition has changed your way of life or prohibits you from doing many ordinary tasks will be important. After your testimony, the ALJ typically allows your representative to speak on your behalf and/or directly ask you additional questions. If medical experts or vocational experts (job placement professionals) are in attendance, the judge will ask for their input. At the end of the hearing, the judge will ask if you would like to say anything else and may have a few questions left. Most of the time, you will not receive a decision right away. The decision usually comes by mail 3-4 weeks later, however the ALJ may make a ‘bench decision’ and tell you whether you are approved or not before you leave. Regardless, you will need to wait for the written decision before any award is issued.
Statistically, your greatest odds of obtaining benefits are at the hearing level. If you are denied there is a chance to appeal the ALJ’s decision with the appeals council but at that point your odds of winning drop drastically.
Talk with one of our experienced Richmond social security disability lawyers
To learn more about the application and hearing process for SSDI or to review your claims with a disability benefits specialist, call or contact us at Harbison & Kavanagh today to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.