Should I Request an ALJ With a Degenerative Disc Disease

If you have applied to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a social security disability benefit because you have a degenerative disc disease and your application has been denied, then you should not hesitate but file a request to attend an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.

You are entitled to this hearing as it is a part of the appeal’s process after the SSA has denied your disability benefit claim and a rejection of a reconsideration. (ALJ) is a judge who has been appointed to review your degenerative disc disease at a private hearing. The judge has the responsibility to determine if the effects of your degenerative disc disease are serious enough that you are unable to support yourself financially. S/he will ask you some questions to help reach the best decision.

Most applications for SSD benefits are denied first time round, and just 34% are successful. The ALJ hearing is very worthwhile, as 46% of applicants who progress this far have their benefit application eventually approved. This means requesting an ALJ is likely to be the right decision to make if your initial application for SSD benefits has been denied.

What to Expect From an ALJ Hearing

An ALJ hearing is not quite so intimidating as going to court, mainly because it takes place in a small conference room and even at times video conferencing is used. Those who will attend the hearing include yourself, your attorney, the ALJ, an assistant and a experts who have knowledge about degenerative disc disease, The following stages typically take place:

• The ALJ hearing will commence with questions asked by the judge about the effects of your degenerative disc disease and how your life is affected. The judge mainly focuses on your chances of earning an income with the disease. Your attorney can speak on our behalf if you find this easier.
• The medical experts present at the hearing may ask you about your degenerative disc disease and how it affects your ability to take part in a job.
• As soon as the ALJ is happy that sufficient information has been provided the hearing will be terminated
• It can take as long as 30 days before you receive a decision.

Tips for Success at an ALJ Hearing With a Degenerative Disk Disorder

1. Your employment lawyer should be there at the ALJ hearing, which improves the chance of a successful outcome
2. Don’t arrive late for the hearing otherwise the ALJ may cancel it.
3. Get some practice with answering possible questions about your degenerative disc disorder with a relative, friend or your attorney.
4. At the hearing all the answers you give to questions must be honest and provide a full description of the impact on your life from having degenerative disc disorder.
5. Remember, you may be questioned about how your disability affects your everyday life and the limitations it imposes.
6. Be alert to the fact that you will probably be asked about any unexplained gaps in your medical history or other information which may appear to be absent.
7. Be ready with answers to questions about the symptoms of your degenerative disc disorder and how it affects your ability to do work related activities.

Having an Attorney on Your Side Helps

Even though your benefit application was denied in the first place and an attempt at getting the decision reconsidered was also denied, don’t give up hope as you may still have a chance to win. Although two thirds of all SSD benefit applications are denied first time round, persistence and help from an experienced disability attorney could mean all the difference when you attend an ALJ hearing.

Additional Resources