If your initial Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits application is denied, you have the option of entering an appeals process with the Social Security Administration (SSA). After requesting that your application is reconsidered and getting denied again, you still have options. The second step to appeal your SSD benefits application denial is called an administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing.
An ALJ hearing is a legal hearing in which a judge reviews your disability claim and any new medical information, and consults with a vocational expert and yourself, before making a decision about your appeal.
What to Expect
ALJ hearings are usually relatively informal and short, ranging from 15 minutes to an hour. The hearing could be held in a court facility, or even a hotel conference room, or over video chat, if necessary.
The people involved in the hearing include the administrative law judge and a vocational expert. A medical expert could also be called in for questioning. You have the right to bring legal representation, as well as your own relevant witnesses.
The ALJ will ask the vocational expert hypothetical questions about what you can be expected to be able to do with your disability when it comes to work. The judge may ask you questions or give you an opportunity to make a statement at the end of the hearing, in which you can make your case for how your disability prevents you from working.
What to Do
After your request for reconsideration has been denied, you can request an ALJ hearing for your disability case either online, over the phone, or at your local Social Security office. You have 60 days from the notice that your reconsideration request has been denied to start this stage of the appeals process.
You will need to state your request for the appeal, notify the SSA that you will be submitting additional medical evidence to support your claim, and let the SSA know that you wish to attend your ALJ hearing in person. Note that personal attendance is not mandatory, but it is strongly encouraged for a successful claim.
After you made your initial request for an ALJ hearing, you have ten days to submit any new medical evidence to the SSA that will help your disability claim. If you do not do this within ten days, you can file a request for an extension. This evidence can include test results, doctor’s visits, surgeries, therapies, and more.
Tips for Success
- Consider hiring a disability lawyer to represent you at the hearing.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before your hearing is scheduled. If you are late, the judge may dismiss your case.
- Answer the questions succinctly, honestly, and thoroughly. If you do not understand the question, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat or explain it further.
- Practice answering questions with your disability attorney or a friend ahead of time.
- Be specific about your work limitations and the medical symptoms caused by your disability
- Prepare for questions about gaps in your medical history or facts on your application that may go against your case, and how to answer them.
- Be prepared to describe your day-to-day life with your disability.
Submitting a Brief: You can submit a short document, called a brief, explaining the details of your case and why you should be approved for SSD benefits. Submit your brief at least 10 days before your hearing to make sure that the judge has time to review it beforehand.
Witnesses: Bringing 1-2 witnesses that can testify to how your disability affects your abilities to work may be a good idea. These witnesses can include coworkers and roommates who can comment on how you live and work on a daily basis.