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

Are the Chances of Winning Disability Benefits Higher at a Social Security Hearing with a Judge?

At the first two levels of the disability system, there is often little a claimant can do to avoid being denied disability benefits under SSD (social security disability) or SSI (supplemental security income disability). This is because those levels of the system--the disability application and reconsideration appeal--are decided by disability examiners. Disability examiners in every single state have higher denial rates than administrative law judges (who issue decisions at disability hearings).

Why is this the case? There are several possible reasons. First of all, the process that is used by disability examiners does not allow claimants to meet the decision-maker (the disability examiner in this case) and present an argument in favor of their case. Because disability examiners operate in a closed system, claimants do not have the opportunity to know anything of any real importance about the processing of their case until they have received a notice of decision.

In contrast to this, claimants who go to disability hearings have the opportunity (directly, or through their appointed disability lawyer) to:

A) Review their file;

B) Add medical evidence to their file;

C) Check to ensure that no medical records are missing from the file (a common complaint of applicants who have received a notice of denial from a disability examiner is that crucial medical records are either missing from the file or were never gathered by the examiner, despite the fact that the claimant listed a specific treatment source at the time of filing the disability application).

D) Take questions from the decision-maker which may be used to clarify key points regarding the claimant's medical history or work history.

The disability hearing stage is also distinctly different in that administrative law judges prefer to have available to them the opinion of the claimant's own physician. It is for this reason that competent disability attorneys will usually try to obtain a detailed medical source statement from a claimant's treating physician as this can carry substantial weight at a hearing.

Disability examiners, on the other hand, tend not to give proper consideration to the opinion of a claimant's own doctor or doctors. This may be due, in part, because disability examiners use a process that requires them to have their own decisions reviewed by a medical doctor who works in their processing unit (a unit medical consultant). This insular system may produce a tendency to disregard the opinion of the doctor who has actually treated the patient in favor of a doctor (who works with the disability examiner) who has never treated the patient and has never even met the patient.

However, to answer the question with which we started, yes, the chances of winning disability benefits at a hearing held by a judge are substantially higher. To get to a disability hearing, however, a claimant must first be denied on an application for disability and then on a reconsideration appeal.

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?
Preparing for a Disability Hearing to Win Social Security or SSI Benefits
Presenting evidence at a social security disability or SSI hearing
How Long Does It Take To Get The Results Of A Disability Hearing?
Do Most People Have To Go To A Disability Hearing in order to Get Approved For Disability?
Can you be approved for disability without having to go to a hearing?
Waiting for a Hearing to be Scheduled before an ALJ, Administrative Law Judge
Vocational expert at a disability hearing - what is this?
Social Security Disability Hearings - What is the ALJ

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