When do you receive a Hearing for Disability?

There are two ways to address this question. The first is by interpreting the question as "How long does it take to get a disability hearing date after the hearing has been requested?". To answer this, we can state that while making the request for a disability hearing is fairly simple, particularly if you have representation since your representative will handle all the paperwork, waiting for the hearing to be scheduled is another matter since it can take many months to get a hearing date established.

How long will this take? It varies according to which ODAR (office of disability adjudication and review, a.k.a. hearing office) has jurisdiction over your case, which is another way of saying it depends on which part of the country you live in. Some hearings offices have longer backlogs than others.

It also varies depending on the year in which you file a request for hearing. What do we mean by this? Simply that, over the course of the last decade, the backlog of hearing requests has, at times, gotten smaller. At other times, it has gotten larger. To some extent, this has been a matter of rising numbers of disability claims. However, it also depends on the resources available to the Social Security Administration at any given point in time.

In most states, it is a conservative bet that once a hearing request has been submitted, a date for a hearing will probably take at least a year. It is not unusual, historically, for a hearing request to take up to two years to schedule.

The second way to address this question is literally, as in "at which point in the process can you ask for a hearing?"

You receive a hearing before an Administrative Law judge sometime after the following has occurred: A) you have been denied on a request for reconsideration appeal (typically, the first appeal, the request for reconsideration, has a denial rate of about 81%) and B) you, or your disability lawyer or disability representative, have requested the hearing.

Note: there are ten test states in which the reconsideration stage has been suspended; therefore, if you live in one of those states, a hearing may be requested after a disability application has been denied. This is advantageous in one sense. Obviously, it potentially makes getting to a hearing somewhat faster since an entire appeal step is being skipped.

On the other hand, 15 percent of all reconsideration appeals are approved, meaning that removing the reconsideration appeal step may remove the potential for being approved for some claimants. This is because disability examiners (examiners make decisions on applications and reconsideration appeals) and disability judges very often come to different conclusions on cases.

Those states in which reconsideration appeals have been suspended are Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Alaska, parts of California (Los Angeles North and West areas), Michigan, New Hampshire, parts of New York (the Brooklyn and Albany areas), Missouri, and the state of Pennsylvania.

When you go to your hearing, should you have representation? This is a question that only you can decide, however statistically about sixty percent of the hearings with representation win, where as only about forty percent of the hearing without representation win.

Although the Social Security Administrative Law judge hearing is fairly informal, it is nonetheless based on several things that make attending a hearing without representation somewhat dicey.

One of those things, of course, is knowing what to look for in the medical records for a particular case. Secondly, knowing how to read the case file and prior denials on the case is important as well. But, in addition to these things, representatives will be familiar with concepts such as unsuccessful work attempts, the date last insured, what constitutes SGA (substantial gainful activity), and how to present a theory of the case for the judge who is making the decision.

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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