Do you have to see a judge to get disability benefits?

The answer to this question is "not necessarily". There are estimates which suggest that approximately thirty percent of all initial claims are allowed (approved) nationwide.

If your claim is denied at the initial claim level, you may file for a reconsideration of the initial disability determination. Approximately ten to fifteen percent of initial medical determinations are reversed to an allowance at the reconsideration appeal level. Of course, if you are allowed at either the initial or reconsideration level you will not see a judge (Administrative law judge or ALJ).

The third step in the disability process (which is also the second appeal level) is known as the hearings appeal, and it is at this time that you will have a chance to present your disability case in person to an administrative law judge.

It is advisable for you to attend your hearing in person and you might want to consider a representative (an attorney or non-attorney) to help you present your disability case to the ALJ.

Of course you can represent yourself. Statistically, though, it appears that individuals with representation are more likely to receive a medical allowance for Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits at this level.

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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