How do I see a judge for my Social Security Disability case or SSI Claim?

Judges play a role in the Social Security Disability and SSI disability appeal process at different levels. For most claimants, a judge will be involved if their case is denied on a disability application and then denied on the first appeal, which is a request for reconsideration. After a reconsideration appeal has been denied, a claimant may request a hearing before an ALJ, or administrative law judge.

The ALJ disability hearing is the only level of the appeal system at which a claimant will actually encounter and interact with a judge. This is because of the nature of the administrative law judge hearing.

The hearing is held, for the most part, so that claimants can have an official of the social security administration review of the decisions that were made by disability examiners on a claimant's initial claim and reconsideration appeal. The fact that the hearing is conducted by a judge who, although employed by the social security administration, does not have any ties to the social security management structure, or disability determination services (DDS, where examiners work on claims), helps ensure a level of fairness.

The hearing also allows a disability case to be evaluated in a manner that is completely, in some regards, different from the process employed at lower levels of the system. Whereas on a disability application or reconsideration appeal, the decision will be made by a disability examiner with practically no input from a claimant or a claimant's representative, a Social Security Disability hearing will actually allow a claimant to appear before the decision-maker (an administrative law judge) and present their case.

The fact that they may also be accompanied by a representative, who is typically a practicing social security attorney, means that the claimant can have the opportunity to offer a skilled presentation of their case, complete with an understanding of how the case may have been improperly considered at earlier steps and how a claimant's medical record truly warrants a finding of disability.

continued at: Medical Evidence and Appearing at the ALJ Hearing for Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits

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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