Do you need a Lawyer at the Administrative Law Judge Disability Hearing?

Most disability applicants will need a lawyer at the ALJ disability hearing if they wish to significantly increase their potential to win their disability case.

This is simply a point of reality considering that an unrepresented claimant will have zero understanding of how the disability determination approval process works, and what should be done to properly prepare a case for presentation to an administrative law judge.

On top of all this, of course, is the fact that a claimant will be at a severe disadvantage should the judge have a medical or vocational expert appear at the hearing. Responding properly to hypotheticals raised by an expert, or addressing new hypotheticals to an expert witness, can help determine whether or not a claim will be approved by a judge.

Back to the speed aspect, however, having a lawyer for your administrative law judge appeal may make the disability process faster by requesting the judge make a decision on the face of the record, or on the record.

What is this? If your lawyer provides medical records that indicate you are disabled or they believe the records contained in your disability file support an approval of disability benefits, they may ask the judge to make a disability determination without an actual hearing. This can eliminate many months of time that would usually be spent simply waiting for a hearing date.

Barring a disability decision on the face of the record, your lawyer can also send a letter of dire need to the hearing office to expedite the processing of your request for a disability hearing. If your lawyer files a dire need letter, make sure the letter is sent along with evidence that you are indeed behind on your rent, mortgage, or utility bills, or that you have a definite need for medications which you cannot afford.

Note: It is important to remember a dire need letter may or may not affect the wait time for an administrative law judge disability hearing. It really depends upon the backlog of hearings in your area's hearing office.

Social Security hearings offices receive thousands of dire need letters from individuals just like you who are at their financial wits end because of their inability to work and earn a living. Having said this, dire need requests for expedited hearings are often still worth the effort. In some cases, they can eliminate an entire year of waiting.

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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