The reality is that many applications for Social Security disability benefits are initially denied. Fortunately, many applicants find success and different levels of appealing such a denial. If your application has been denied, you can always petition for reconsideration. If reconsideration does not help, you can proceed with the next level of appeal in the process, which is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The prospect of a hearing before an ALJ may be daunting, but learning about what actually happens at such hearings can help you effectively prepare as well as work to calming those nerves.
What Happens at a Disability Hearing?
After receiving notice of your reconsideration being denied, you have 60 days to request an administrative hearing to appeal the denial of your disability benefits application. While you may be anxious to move ahead with the appeals process, there may be some delay in scheduling a hearing. Responding to a request for an administrative hearing will vary in time based on the caseload at the time the request is made. You should expect, however, to receive a notice of the hearing at least 20 days prior to the date and time upon which the hearing is scheduled. The notice will also include the location for the hearing.
Keep in mind that, while the buildup to a hearing can feel like it drags on, the hearing itself will likely be very quick. Hearings run anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. Since hearings only last so long, it makes it extra important for you to arrive in a timely manner. If you are late, you should be prepared to show cause so that the judge will permit a rescheduling of your hearing.
What actually goes on at a hearing will depend on the facts and circumstances, along with the complexities, of the case at hand. You will be sworn in by a court reporter upon arrival at the hearing as will any vocational experts or witnesses that attend. Your case will then be introduced by the ALJ and it is likely the ALJ will ask you and your witnesses some follow-up questions about things such as your disabling medical condition and how it impacts your ability to work.
A range of witnesses may be presented at these hearings, including medical and vocational experts. Vocational experts speak to the ability of a person to perform a job. The ALJ can pose questions to your witnesses as well as to you or your representative. Should the ALJ refrain from asking any questions, you are permitted to request the opportunity to speak on your own behalf or to have your representative speak on your behalf. Everything said at the hearing is under oath and recorded in official records. Once the ALJ feels they have heard the relevant testimony and reviewed the relevant evidence, a written decision will be issued and a copy will be sent to you or your representative. If there is an unfavorable outcome, rest assured you can move to the next level of appeal which is a review by the Social Security Administration Appeals Council
Disability benefits provide vital financial support and are worth pursuing up the various levels of appeals. Don’t worry. The team at Disability Advocates will be there for you every step of the way. Contact us today.