If your application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, there is an appeals process you can go through in hopes of overturning the Social Security Administration's decision. The first step of the appeal process is a request for reconsideration. If your request for reconsideration is denied, the next step is to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.
The Social Security Disability Hearing Process
If your Social Security Disability claim is denied and your request for reconsideration is unsuccessful, you must file a request for a hearing within 60 days of receiving the decision of the denied reconsideration request. If you do not submit the request for a hearing within this 60-day time period and you decide that you would like to continue with your pursuit to obtain Social Security Disability benefits, then you will be required to begin the application process all over again. This will likely mean waiting another 90 to 120 days to be denied at the initial claim stage and another three to five months to be denied at the reconsideration level. After that time has elapsed you will once again need to continue on to the hearing stage of the Social Security Disability appeal process.
When you request a hearing before an administrative law judge, the decision as to whether or not you receive disability benefits is no longer in the hands of the Social Security Disability claims processors. At this point in the process, the decision as to whether or not your claim is in the hands of an administrative law judge. The administrative law judge who hears your Social Security Disability case will make a decision based on the evidence you present at your hearing as well as any testimony that may be heard at the hearing.
It is important to have proper legal representation during the Social Security Disability hearing process. While you are not required by to have an attorney at your hearing, your chances of a successful hearing are significantly increased with proper representation. A Social Security Disability attorney can make sure that your hearing is held properly, that the right questions are asked and that you are prepared to present your case well enough to prove your entitlement to benefits.
You may bring witnesses with you to testify for you at your hearing, but whether or not these witness testimonies are heard or taken into consideration is up to the administrative law judge. The judge may request his or her own witnesses, such as doctors and medical experts who may be able to shed light on your disability case.
When your hearing is scheduled, you will receive notice of the hearing approximately twenty days prior to the scheduled date. This notice will include details about the date, time and location of the hearing. In most cases, the hearing will be held within seventy-five miles of your home. It is crucial that you attend this hearing and that you arrive on time if you wish to receive disability benefits. Missing your hearing or arriving late may result in a denial of Social Security Disability benefits.
Prior to the date of your hearing, you should submit evidence that you would like to have considered at the hearing. Make sure you submit this information as soon as possible to the administrative law judge presiding over your case.
At your hearing, the judge will go over all of the evidence, will ask you questions and may receive testimony from your witnesses and from other qualified professionals. Your attorney may also question these witnesses and may submit evidence during the hearing. When the hearing has been completed, the judge will provide you with a written decision regarding the outcome of your Social Security Disability hearing.
In some situations, your attorney may ask an administrative law judge to make a decision without going through the actual hearing process. If this happens the judge will send you and your attorney a copy of the decision that is made regarding your disability claim.
The Social Security Disability Hearing Time Frame
The Social Security Disability hearing process can take more than a year to complete. In 2009 the average time taken for a case to go through the hearing process was 491 days. This is why it is critically important to prepare for your ALJ hearing ahead of time to ensure that you have the best chance of winning your case.
Fortunately, your chances of being awarded Social Security Disability benefits is much greater at this stage than it is in the initial and reconsideration stages of the application process. More than sixty percent of appeals made at the hearing level are decided in the favor of the applicant.
If you are denied benefits after your case has been heard by an administrative law judge, you can go on to further appeal your claim. The next step in the Social Security Disability appeal process is to take your case before the Social Security Disability Appeals Council.