What do you need to provide for approval at a disability hearing?
To get approved at a disability hearing, you will basically need the same information that your claim needed at the disability application level and the reconsideration appeal level.
Your claim needs to meet the SSA definition of disability; therefore it needs to show that your medical condition is severe enough to prevent you from working and earning a substantial and gainful income for at least a full year.
Note: this does not mean that you cannot work. It DOES mean that you cannot work and earn more than the allowable earnings limit. Also, it does not mean that you need to be out of work for a year BEFORE you even apply for benefits. SSA can review your claim and determine if your condition will be this severe; in other words, they can make a projection.
To get approved at a hearing
One: You need to gather current medical records and have this submitted to the ALJ at the hearing office before the hearing occurs. Doesn't Social Security get your medical records? Yes, but only if your claim is at the reconsideration appeal or disability application level. At the hearing, the burden of getting records is on the claimant, or their disability lawyer/attorney/representative if one is handling the case.
Why is getting updated records so important? Simply because after your disability hearing is requested, it may be a year or longer before your hearing takes place. Obviously, this means that unless updated medical records are obtained for the hearing, the judge will be looking at relatively older records. And this will make it impossible for the judge to approve the disability claim.
Two: At a hearing, it is especially important to get an objective statement from one of your treating physicians. This is called a medical source statement. These kinds of statements typically do not help a case at the application or reconsideration appeal level. But at a hearing, they often help win the case. A medical source statement will not give a diagnosis, but, rather, it will explain in detail how a person is functionally limited (for example, standing, sitting, reaching, bending, concentrating, remembering, etc).
If you have good updated medical records, and a strong medical source statement at your hearing, your chances of getting approved for disability will go up considerably.
Things that may help to get your claim approved
If you have a disability hearing coming up, there are a few things that may help get your disability claim approved.
If possible, you need to have current medical information in your disability claim as well as a good history of medical treatment for your disabling conditions. Current medical treatment for Social Security Disability is any treatment that has occurred within the past three months.
The administrative law judge generally reviews your disability case file prior to the hearing and they form an opinion as to their potential decision based upon the medical information contained in your file.
Remember, you are going to be in front of an administrative law judge so dress accordingly. You should also be on time and prepared for your hearing. What do I mean by be prepared for your hearing? You must be prepared to answer any questions the judge might ask you. Sometimes, the judge asks questions and other times they may not.
Lastly, congressional statistics suggest that disability claims with professional representation are about 21% more likely to be an approval than those with no representation.
Representatives know Social Security vocational guidelines and case law or representatives are able to present your disability case in a more effective way. They will also make sure that your disability claim is as up to date as possible.
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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