The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies many initial applications for disability benefits, even when applicants have a strong case for receiving benefits. The SSA is hoping to root out frivolous applications and discourage people without valid claims from applying.
That means many of those who may have qualifying disabilities and meet other criteria may need to appeal to continue pursuing disability benefits. Often the next step is a filing a request for reconsideration. If this does not result in a reversal of the decision to deny benefits, the next step is to seek a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Below, our Harrisburg Social Security Disability lawyers discuss these hearings and how to be prepared. If you and your attorney present a strong case, the denial of your application may be overturned.
It is important to seek representation from an experienced lawyer who has gone through these hearings before. The way you answer questions and the information you provide are both critical to the success of your disability appeal.
What Happens at a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge?
The judge who hears your case plays no role in the original determination on your application, or the reconsideration request. You and your attorney present your case. Expert witnesses may be called as well.
These hearings are usually held within 75 miles of your home, and they may also be done via video, at a hearing site or one of the SSA’s hearing offices.
Once a request for a hearing is submitted, a confirmation package will be sent out that explains the process.
Hearings start with each person being identified and the judge reading a basic statement of facts about the application. After that, the judge usually directly questions the applicant about his or her medical condition, treatment, past employment and how the disability limits the person.
The judge’s goal is to get all the facts to help him or her decide whether you should receive disability benefits.
After you speak, the judge usually allows the applicant’s attorney to speak on his or her behalf. Next, the judge will ask for testimony from expert witnesses, such as doctors and vocational experts.
In most cases, the judge’s decision is mailed to the applicant three to four weeks after the hearing.
Preparing for the Hearing
Your lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing by going over your claim and the questions you should be expected to answer. It is important to answer these questions directly and not ramble on because the judge may lose interest. You want to present a strong case by relaying the most important information.
The attorneys at Schmidt Kramer have helped many applicants appeal and we know the kind of information judges want to know.
It is also important to provide the SSA with your most recent medical records. There may be important changes in your condition that could be deciding factors in whether the denial of your claim is overturned. You can obtain the SSA’s case file to determine the dates of the last records they have.
If your doctors are willing, ask them to provide supportive statements for your claim. These statements should list the work activities you cannot do and the other ways your medical condition limits you physically. For instance, if you cannot stand or sit for more than 20 minutes or lift more than 20 pounds on a regular basis, these facts should be noted in statements from your doctor.
Letters from caregivers, former employers, relatives and friends could also be helpful. These are all things you can discuss with a licensed attorney.
At the end of the hearing, you can ask the judge if you can submit a brief, written explanation to clear up anything that you think seems confusing or unclear. If the judge agrees to this, make sure to run this request by your lawyer first. You want to limit yourself to the points the judge gave you permission to write about.
Have More Questions? We Are Here to Help
The attorneys at Schmidt Kramer know many applications are rejected, and we are here to discuss your SSD application and determine how we may be able to assist you. We know how important disability benefits are, as you look to support yourself and your family without being able to work.
We have a proven track record of helping SSD applicants obtain benefits and we are ready to answer your questions in a free consultation. There are no upfront fees or obligations.
Schmidt Kramer. We Have Answers to Your Legal Questions. (717) 888-8888