Social Security Disability Resource Center

Overview | How to Qualify | Applications
Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

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.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    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

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    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?
    If you apply for disability in Utah
    Getting a Disability Lawyer in Utah

    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