Hearings for disability in California

If you have applied for disability benefits from SSA (the social security administration), you may already be aware of the fact that, statistically, most individuals who win disability benefits usually have to pursue their claim to the hearing level. On this page, we'll address some fairly common questions about the disability hearing level.

First of all, what is a Social Security Disability (or SSI) hearing? Simply put, a disability hearing is the second step in the social security administration's disability appeal process. It is unique from all other stages of the disability evaluation process in that the individual who is filing for benefits actually gets to meet their adjudicator (the person making the decision on their case). At the hearing level, the adjudicator is an administrative law judge.

What is an administrative law judge? ALJ's are federal employees who adjudicate matters of...administrative law. In this case, they make decisions on Social Security Disability and SSI disability cases that have been denied at the initial claim level and also at the first appeal level (known as a reconsideration or federal review).

How long does it take to get a disability hearing scheduled? This is probably the most problematic issue for the entire disability appeal process. Due to backlogs that have built up over a period of several years, it may, depending on where you live, take 1-2 years, or even longer to get a hearing date after a hearing has been requested. Why does it matter where you live? Because different hearings offices have different backlogs. Some hearings offices are able to get hearings scheduled in less than a year from the date of request. Other hearings offices, on the other hand, are so backed up that it can take over a year to get a hearing date set.

How often are disability cases won at disability hearings in California? Most disability lawyers and non-attorney representatives) seem to be of the mind that roughly half of all cases that are brought to the hearing level are won, and half are lost. However, statistics indicate that about 40 % of all hearings that do not involve representation are won and about 60 % of all hearings that do involve representation (i.e. have a lawyer or non attorney involved) are won. However, a great many disability claimant's representatives win greater than 70 percent of the cases they bring to hearings and some win over 90 percent of their hearings (though, this is, no doubt, due to being very selective with regard to the cases they take).

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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