The SSDI application process is complicated, even for the most educated and prepared individual. According to data from the Social Security Administration (SSA), less than 40% of Social Security disability applications are approved at the initial application level.
If your case is one that receives an initial denial, you may appeal the decision. Depending on the state in which you live, you may be able to request a reconsideration. In certain states, a second individual who has no experience with your application will make a new decision.
Some states have eliminated the reconsideration process. In this case, or if your disability application was denied by the second reviewer, you have the right to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
Do I have to describe how I became disabled during a hearing?
If you have been granted a hearing, your case will be sent to the ALJ’s hearing office for scheduling. Keep in mind that due to the number of appeals, there may be a delay in the scheduling of your hearing.
To expedite the process, you may be offered a video teleconference hearing. In this case, you will be able to appear at your hearing via video conferencing, as opposed to in person. Appearing via video is often a welcomed option for those who feel too ill to travel.
Whether in person or via video teleconference, the ALJ may question you and any other witnesses that you bring along to the hearing, such as a doctor, vocational representative, or any other medical expert that can speak to your case.
You will need to answer questions under oath, and your answers will be recorded. It is essential that you present your information as thoroughly and honestly as possible. By doing so, the ALJ will have the best information needed to make an educated decision about your case.
Can I bring medical evidence to the hearing?
Preparation is of absolute essence when getting ready for your hearing. It is imperative that you submit as soon as possible any additional evidence that you would like the ALJ to consider.
If you obtain new medical evidence after being awarded the hearing, but before the hearing occurs, send it to the judge as soon as possible. The ALJ will review the evidence before meeting with you, so it is essential that all of the information that you wish to have included is already with the judge.
If you have obtained very recent medical evidence that you have not submitted to the judge, be sure to bring it with you to the hearing. Depending on the judge, you may be able to present the information then and there.
What other valuable information should I be prepared to discuss?
Be prepared to discuss every physical work-related task that you are not able to perform due to your condition. For example, if you are unable to stand without the use of an assistive device, unable to lift a box, or unable to communicate effectively with your colleagues, be certain to share all of that information with the judge.
It is helpful to work with your physician ahead of time to prepare a list of your physical limitations. While you do not want to exaggerate your condition, you also do not want to leave any pertinent information out.
It is important to be as specific as possible in discussing how your disability impacts your work and your day-to-day activities. Be certain to explain how much assistance you require from friends, family, or colleagues to complete important tasks.
Should I hire an Attorney to help me with the hearing?
Preparing for and attending a Social Security Disability Appeals hearing can be a very stressful experience. It is important to keep in mind that the judge will ask you numerous questions about your health and your abilities.
While you may naturally feel defensive at times, remember that the judge is not questioning your disability, but rather is trying to get a full picture of your health and limitations.
A qualified disability attorney or representative can be very helpful and can significantly improve your chances of winning your claim. An experienced attorney will ensure that you will be appropriately prepared for a hearing.
In addition to assisting you to collect all of the necessary medical information, he or she will help you practice answering questions that the judge might ask.
While in the hearing, your lawyer will sit beside you, offering both legal guidance and emotional support. As they have been through this process before, they will bring a level of confidence that will help you feel more at ease during the process.