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How should I prepare for a disability hearing with Social Security ?

How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits

If you are preparing for a Social Security hearing, it is advisable to have a representative who is competent with Social Security law and disability determination procedures and rules. Of course, you are entitled to represent yourself at a Social Security disability hearing; however statistics indicate that social security disability and SSI claims with representation are more likely to result in an allowance, i.e. an aproval.

This is less true, of course at the lower levels of the system (the initial claim level and the request for reconsideration level) because at those levels decisions are made by disability examiners. Examiners tend to hold down the number of approvals that they make, because they report to unit supervisors and also because they are subject to having their decisions reviewed by DQB, the disability quality branch (a quality control unit that looks for errors in a disability examiner's decision process).

That the hearing level offers a greater chance of being approved is somewhat obvious if one considers the fact that over 70 percent of all initial claims nationwide are denied by disability examiners. And over 85 percent of all reconsideration appeals are denied by disability examiners on a nationwide average basis. Yet, more than 60 percent of all cases that are brought before administrative law judges at disability hearings are approved when the claimant is represented.

What do these facts say about how one should proceed after being denied on either an application for disability or a request for reconsideration? Simply that it will nearly always be in a claimant's best interests to file an appeal, the eventual goal being to get a case heard by an administrative law judge. Hearings, of course, cannot be requested until a reconsideration appeal has been denied. Hearings also take an extraordinary amount of time to get to.

For instance, if a claimant receives a notice of denial on a reconsideration and decides to file the next appeal, the request for a hearing before an administrative law judge, it may take 12-24 months to get schedule for a hearing. By that point, the total amount of time spent on a case, from the very first filing of the claim, will probably be over two years at a minimum.

However, because it takes so very long to get to a hearing, a claimant should make sure that they are well prepared.

For most claimants who are at the point of requesting a disability, the most important consideration will be whether or not to get representation. This is not just an important consideration, it is a crucial one. Statistics are very clear in this regard. While approximately forty percent of claimants who go to hearings without a disability lawyer or representative will be successful in winning benefits, for those who go to their hearing with a representative, the likelihood of winning benefits will increase to sixty percent. This represents a 50 percent increased chance of winning for the person who has representation.

Continued at: Why does representation result in a higher win ratio at a hearing?

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Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews