Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

Who Makes the Decision at the Social Security Disability, SSI Hearing Level?

If your SSI or Social Security disability claim has progressed to the disability hearing level, an administrative law judge will make the decision on your case and decide if it is to be approved or denied. The ALJ uses essentially the same process to decide a claim as a disability examiner when you first apply for disability benefits.

What is that process? The following page discusses what happens on a disability case when a case is being worked on initially by a disability examiner: The Social Security Disability Approval Process and the Criteria for Decisions.

However, at the hearing level, the process is still essentially the same. The ALJ will review the medical evidence looking for signs of limitations that might prevent a person from engaging in normal daily activities.

When the claimant is a child (such as for SSI child benefits), being unable to engage in normal daily activities would typically mean having difficulty engaging in age-appropriate activities. For children who are school-age, this will typically mean having to examine evidence as to the child's ability to perform school work.

For this reason, child disability cases will often involve reviewing IQ testing, achievement testing, grades, IEPs, and questionaires from the child's teachers, all in the attempt to determine whether or not the child is being impaired from engaging in what is thought to be normal and expected for the child's age.

When the claimant is an adult, the emphasis will still be on evaluating whether or not the individual can engage in normal daily activities.

However, here the emphasis will be on determining whether or not the individual is capable of A) performing work activity and B) working and earning at least a certain minimum threshold of income each month.

Item B is important because the social security administration has taken the position that even individuals with disabilities may still be able to work, even if they cannot work to the extent of being able to earn a livable wage.

It is for this reason that disability benefit applicants and recipients are not necessarily penalized for working, though their benefits may be reduced or stopped altogether if they demonstrate the ability to work in excess of a certain limit (that limit is known as the substantial gainful activity, or SGA, level).

How does the administrative law judge (or a disability examiner if the case is being worked on at the lower levels of the system) evaluate whether or not a person can work? This decision process involves reviewing the claimant's past work and comparing that to the physical and mental capabilities they currently possess.

If the evidence suggests that the individual cannot return to a former job (potentially any job they have done in the last 15 years) or perform some type of other work they have never done but for which their education, physical and mental condition, and work training might qualify them for, then it is likely that they will be approved for disability benefits.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

Will a Social Security Judge give You an Immediate Decision at the Disability Hearing?
Basic Facts about the Administrative Law Judge Social Security Disability Hearing
Are the Chances of Winning Disability Benefits Higher at a Social Security Hearing with a Judge?
Winning at a Social Security Disability Hearing
Social Security Disability Hearings - what to expect
What happens when you go to a Social Security disability hearing?
How do I request a social security disability hearing - How do I file?
Requesting a Social Security Hearing when you have a Disability Representative or Attorney
How long does a request for a disability hearing appeal take?
What are the odds of a judge giving you a disability denial?
What is a Social Security administrative law judge disability hearing?
What is the time frame for a judge to make a decision for a disability hearing?
How should I prepare for a disability hearing with Social Security?
What are the questions that get asked at a social security disability or SSI hearing?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria