Shortly after hearing about your cancer diagnosis, you quickly started the process to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). A couple of weeks pass, and you receive bad news that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has denied your claim.
Does this mean you have run out of options for financial assistance? The answer is the SSA offers SSDI claimants a second chance to receive benefits by requesting an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.
What to Expect at an ALJ Hearing
Approval for an SSDI application is higher at an ALJ hearing than it is for applicants that file the initial claim. The reason for this is the SSA reviews documents to determine SSDI eligibility for the initial application. At an ALJ hearing, you argue your case in a courtroom setting, with an administrative judge presiding over the proceeding.
This gives you the opportunity to argue your case verbally, which requires the presence of a state licensed Social Security lawyer that specializes in handling SSDI application cases.
You can expect the judge to ask several questions, ranging from how long you have suffered from cancer symptoms to when did you receive a diagnosis from a certified medical professional. You can provide valuable information to the judge presiding over your case before the ALJ hearing by filing a brief with the court.
Make sure to file the brief at least 10 days before the hearing. Reading a brief helps the judge develop a list of questions, as well as gain a better understanding about your financial predicament. Your disability attorney will present more documentation that validates you claim that cancer symptoms have made it impossible for you to hold down a job.
How to Make the Most Convincing Case
They say practice makes perfect, and no other setting does the phrase have more relevance than during a legal proceeding. Your lawyer can prepare you for the ALJ hearing by conducting mock question sessions to give you insight into the types of questions the judge might ask.
You should pay special attention to questions that deal with the severity of your cancer symptoms, as well as how the symptoms have impeded your work performance. Preparing for an ALJ hearing includes practicing mental discipline.
Unlike a criminal trial, an ALJ hearing is not about trying to expose your case. The judge just wants more information, which means you have to keep your cool when the questions appear to be more personal.
Make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your ALJ hearing. If you arrive late, the judge has the power to dismiss your SSDI benefits application. Dress appropriately to put your best foot forward while in the courtroom. Arriving early also gives your attorney the chance to make last minute suggestions to help you answer the judge’s questions.
Hiring a Disability Attorney Helps
When you submitted the initial SSDI application, you might not have worked with a disability lawyer to present the most persuasive case.
For the second go around with the SSA, you should work with a state licensed disability attorney who has helped several clients win judgments that approved an SSDI application. Most disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means they get paid when their clients get paid.
Schedule a free case evaluation to determine how to strengthen your SSDI application for an ALJ hearing.