If your application for Social Security disability or SSI disability benefits was denied, and your subsequent request for reconsideration was also denied, you may be feeling dejected, scared and unsure about the future. Do not get discouraged. You have the right to request a disability hearing where you can present your case and explain why you should receive disability benefits.
If the prospect of going to a hearing and arguing before a judge is intimidating, you can retain the services of a skilled and experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyer to represent you and present your case at the hearing.
Unique Aspects of Social Security Disability Hearings
There are some unique aspects of disability hearings you should be aware of. For example, the hearings are overseen by a federal Administrative Law Judge at a Social Security Administration hearings office (Office of Hearings Operations), not a state or federal courthouse, and will be conducted either in person or by video conference. In addition, disability benefit hearings are not open to the public (which is important as many aspects of your private health, employment and other information will be discussed during the hearing). Furthermore, these hearings take place in small conference rooms, not courtrooms, with no bailiffs or witness boxes or other similar things found in typical courtrooms. Although the hearings are relatively informal, you and other witnesses will be sworn in under oath or affirmation prior to testifying, and an audio recording of the hearing will be made.
Overview of What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing
While the hearing process depends largely on the basis of your disability claim and your specific medical issues and can vary from judge to judge, there are some general protocols that will occur at your disability benefits hearing, including:
- You will likely be questioned by the Administrative Law Judge. The Administrative Law Judge will likely ask you about your medical treatment, your employment history, and how your medical issues have impacted your life. This is where an experienced and savvy disability benefits attorney can be of assistance and take some of the burden off your shoulders. For example, the attorney can summarize your case in a written pre-hearing brief provided to the judge, present further information in opening and closing statements during the hearing, and ask you and other witnesses important additional follow up questions. If an expert witness or witnesses (such as a vocational expert and or medical expert) are in attendance at the hearing and called to testify by the judge, they will likely be asked about your medical treatment and any type of work you could reasonably do with your condition or conditions. Your attorney will be given the opportunity to fully question these experts as well.
- The Administrative Law Judge will typically ask you at the end of the hearing if you would like to provide any other information or make additional comments before they end the hearing. An experienced disability attorney can discuss with you prior to the hearing whether there is a benefit to your case to make any such additional comments.
When a Decision is Rendered
Once the hearing concludes, do not expect to receive a decision on your benefits application that day. Generally, you will not find out the judge’s decision until it is sent to you in writing after the hearing. Expect to wait at least an additional 30-90 days before you are notified in writing of the Administrative Law Judge’s decision (there is actually no time limit on how long the judge can take to issue his or her written decision). During this waiting period, it is important for you to focus your energy on you and your ongoing health concerns. You should not worry or stress about what transpired at the hearing. If you need answers to any particular questions, your attorney is there for you.
Have Questions? Take Action by Contacting an Experienced Social Security Disability Benefits Attorney
There is an array of benefits associated with having a knowledgeable and experienced disability benefits attorney by your side before, during and after the hearing. Your attorney can help prepare you for the hearing and what to expect so you are not blindsided by a particular question or issue, and make sure that the judge has all necessary medical evidence in the file prior to the hearing.
If you are in need of legal counsel, contact disability benefits lawyer Sara J. Frankel. She possesses unique insight into the disability benefits process due to her vast experience as a former staff attorney with the Social Security Administration (SSA). In addition to direct experience with the SSA, Sara J. Frankel possesses more than 25 years of experience handling federal administrative law matters as a private attorney.
Therefore, if you are applying or planning to apply for disability benefits, or if you have already applied and your claim was denied, take action and schedule a no-cost consultation with a skilled disability attorney today.