If your application for Social Security Disability benefits has been denied, and a reconsideration of your claim has also been denied, the next step in the appeals process is to schedule a hearing.
While the hearing process can seem daunting, it offers you your first chance to speak to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in person about your claim.
Whether you are deciding whether you want to pursue a hearing or have already scheduled one, here are five things you should know:
1. You can request an in-person hearing.
Many SSD hearings are held remotely, meaning that you will communicate with the administrative law judge (ALJ) via videoconferencing or telephone. However, you can request that your hearing be held in person. This brings you, your attorney the judge and the witnesses together in the same room. If the extent of your disabilities is obvious to those who meet you in person, an in-person hearing might offer you the best chance of persuading the judge that your claim should be granted.
2. For best results, submit new medical evidence as soon as possible.
You have the right to review your SSA file before the hearing and to submit any new or missing medical evidence for the judge to review. It is best to review the file and submit new evidence as soon as possible before your hearing date. This gives the judge time to review the new evidence thoroughly and protects you in case your submissions are lost or misplaced.
3. You may bring witnesses – but choose quality over quantity.
You are allowed to have witnesses testify on your behalf about the limitations and challenges you face. Because most SSD hearings are short, however, it is best to choose just one or two witnesses who have the best knowledge about your daily struggles instead of bringing in many witnesses to testify to the same things. Your attorney can help you choose the best witnesses for your case.
4. Be prepared to hear “experts” say you can do more than you really can.
At most SSD hearings, the administrative law judge will ask a doctor or vocational expert (VE) to offer testimony about the kinds of jobs you can do in your current condition. Since the VE’s job is to be as optimistic as possible, he or she may say that you can do many jobs that you actually cannot handle. Your attorney will have the chance to cross-examine the doctor or VE during the hearing and to expose the weaknesses in this “sunny” view of your limitations.
5. You can submit a written brief if your case needs clarification.
Because most SSD hearings are short, you may leave the hearing feeling as if the most important points of your case were not properly addressed. Talk to your lawyer about submitting a brief to clarify certain points. Your attorney can connect with the administrative law judge for permission to submit this brief and can draft a brief that gets right to the heart of your case.