What does it mean when a disability judge is reviewing your case?

When a Social Security Disability judge reviews your claim

When a person files a Request for Hearing Review, they are asking that an administrative law judge review their disability claim to make a determination as to whether or not they are disabled. But they would not be doing so if the case had not been previously denied so, in essence, a person who files a request for hearing before an ALJ is also asking that the prior denial, or denials, be overturned.

The judge will essentially do what a disability examiner did on the initial disability application. Meaning that the judge will review the medical evidence available to see if you meet or equal a disability listing in the Social Security Disability list of impairments.

If you do not, and most claims do not get approved this way, then the judge will review both your medical evidence and work history (unless you are a child and then school records may take the place of vocational records) to see if you satisfy the definition of disability through the SSA sequential evaluation process which takes into account a person's work skills, age, education, and physical and/or mental limitations.

Cases that go to the hearing level involve a substantial amount of waiting. Hearings are not scheduled immediately and are subject to very long backlogs in most states. This is why the total wait time on any disability claim, from the denial of an application to the holding of a hearing can easily consume three years. This process can also involve a significant wait for someone at ODAR to review your disability case to see if there is a possibility that an immediate favorable decision can be made without the need for an administrative law judge hearing.

If they (generally an attorney adjudicator) determine an allowance is likely, they will refer it to an ALJ for an OTR decision. An on-the-record decision is simply a medical decision based on the information contained in your disability claim file. If the OTR decision is actually an approval, you will not have to go to a hearing.

Bear in mind, on the record decisions are not the rule, but the exception.

If you don't get an OTR approval, your disability claim will be scheduled for a disability hearing with an ALJ. Of course, this is usually what happens in the vast majority of all claims.

At this point, you will just have to be patient it takes time to get a disability hearing, Generally, it takes 12-24 months to get a hearing depended on the backlogs at your area's disability hearing office.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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