What you need to know about Social Security Disability Hearings
If your claim for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits has been denied and your request for reconsideration also resulted in a denial, the next step is to request and attend a hearing. The hearing would be held before an administrative law judge (ALJ). It would give you and your attorney the chance to describe your disability in person and to present evidence to support your claim.
If you would like to learn more about how an appeal could be pursued in your case, contact Social Security Disability Attorney Frank M. Eidson, P.A. Our firm serves clients throughout Orlando, Winter Park and Florida. We can help you to assess your case and provide the personalized attention you deserve.
Why Should You Go to the Hearing?
After a denied claim and a denial after a reconsideration, preparing for and attending a hearing can seem like additional work with little hope. In fact, a hearing provides you with a significant opportunity to establish your right to SSD benefits. Here’s how:
- The hearing lets you speak to the judge directly – Both your initial application and your reconsideration were based on the information you provided to the Social Security Administration. This information included medical records, doctors’ descriptions of your condition and information about your education and work history. The hearing is often your first chance to talk to the SSA in person. The judge will not only review the information in your case, but he or she will also see firsthand any difficulties you have with walking, communicating or thinking clearly – difficulties that can easily prevent you from working.
- Your attorney can represent you at the hearing. If your claim is being denied due to a matter of law, your attorney can advocate on your behalf to the administrative law judge. Your attorney will also work to build the strongest possible case on your behalf before the hearing and while you are attending it. If you cannot attend the hearing or cannot communicate your needs to the judge, your attorney can communicate for you.
Without a hearing, you cannot proceed in your appeal or obtain benefits. The hearing is the next step after the reconsideration stage. If your claim was denied after reconsideration, you must attend the hearing to keep pursuing benefits.
How to Prepare for a Hearing
You can take several steps to prepare for your hearing. These steps include:
- Inform the SSA as soon as possible if you want to appoint a representative – If you have already been working with an attorney, your lawyer will likely take care of this step. If you have just begun to work with an attorney, make sure he or she notifies the SSA as soon as possible.
- Work with your attorney to review your case file – You and your lawyer may review your file with the SSA and submit any new or updated medical evidence. This should be done as soon as possible before the date of the hearing.
- Keep seeing your doctors and following their instructions – Just as with your initial claim, your appeal may be denied if you seem to be ignoring or refusing medical treatment. If you feel you have a legitimate reason not to follow your doctors’ orders, talk to your attorney.
What Happens at a Hearing?
Your hearing may take place in person, or it may be held remotely, using Skype or other videoconferencing software. Although the administrative law judge may wear a black robe and sit behind a desk or on a raised platform, most hearings are more informal than a civil or criminal trial. In most cases, you can wear the sort of comfortable, clean clothing you would normally wear.
At the hearing, the judge will hear testimony from witnesses. You are allowed to bring witnesses on your own behalf. The judge may also ask other witnesses, such as a doctor or vocational expert, to attend the hearing. Your attorney can cross-examine these witnesses and can also ask questions of your own witnesses to emphasize certain points of their testimony or clarify certain issues. Your attorney may also submit other evidence on your behalf.
The administrative law judge may ask you questions during the hearing, or he or she may wait until the end of the hearing to ask if you wish to speak. Because you are under oath during a hearing, you should answer questions as honestly as you can – even if this means saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”
If you don’t understand a question, tell the judge you don’t understand and ask for clarification. It is better to explain that you are confused than to give an answer that doesn’t tell the judge what he or she asked for.
After the hearing, the administrative law judge will think about your case, make a decision and issue a decision.
What Can You Do If Your Claim is Denied After a Hearing?
If the administrative law judge denies your claim after your hearing, you may seek an Appeals Council Review from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Attorney Frank Eidson can help you to ensure you request this review on time and that your case is updated with the latest information about your condition and your inability to work. To learn, simply call or contact us online.