Getting ready for a Disability Hearing in Texas

If you have filed an application for either Social Security Disability or SSI in Texas, have been denied, and now need to have your case heard by a federal administrative law judge, you will certainly want to prepare before your disability hearing date comes around.

But how do you prepare for an SSI or SSD disability hearing? Well, consider first how far off your hearing date is. The time required to get a disability hearing can be very extensive.

That is, if you file a "request for hearing before an administrative law judge" and send it in to the social security office, that office will have to transfer your file to the Office of Hearings and Appeals (note: hearings offices are now known as ODAR, the office of adjudication and review, though the former name actually makes more sense) that handles your jurisdiction. "Which" hearing office your case winds up at will probably determine, to a great extent, how long it will take for your case to be scheduled for a hearing.

Why is this the case? Simply because different different disability hearing offices serve different populations and, consequently, may have larger or smaller backlogs to contend with. Unfortunately, you can't do anything about which hearing office will handle your hearing, just as you are allowed no input into which administrative law judge will eventually hear your case.

The general rule is something akin to this, however: once you request a Social Security Disability or SSI hearing, you can probably expect, in most cases, to wait at least a year before a hearing date is granted. In some parts of the country, the wait is close to two years, so, in this regard, a wait time of a year, though bad, is not the absolute worst case scenario.

According to recent data provided by SSA, the waiting time to get a hearing date in Texas after a hearing has been requested is as follows: Fort Worth disability hearings office: 11 months; San Antonio disability hearings office: 16 months; Rio Grande disability hearings office: 18 months; Dallas (downtown) disability hearings office: 14 months; Dallas north disability hearings office: 12.5 months; Houston (north) disability hearings office: 10 months; Houston (bissonnet) disability hearings office: 13 months.

Common questions about filing for disability in Texas
But, because in any scenario, it will take a long number of months to get a disability hearing scheduled...there is really little for you to do with regard to preparing for a hearing. Probably the best advice is simply this: if you have access to medical care, keep going. Because the decision that will be made on your SSD or SSI claim will be based on what's in your medical records. And the more your medical history is documented, the better.

Now, on the other hand, if you have requested a hearing for SSI or SSD and have had some indication that your hearing date may be approaching soon...you should do exactly the same thing. Yes, that's right. Keep going to the doctor periodically. Because as important as your cumulative medical record is, it is even more important for a disabilty judge to see that your condition is disabling currently, as in "the here and now". Without recent evidence on which to decide your claim (no older than 2 months),it will be very difficult for an administrative law judge to conclude that you are, in fact, disabled.

Maintaining regular medical treatment will be one of the best ways for you to prepare for your hearing. However, preparing for your hearing doesn't stop there. To win your case, you would be advised to get representation before your hearing in Texas. Remember the old adage "He who represents himself has a fool for an attorney"? That also applies to disability hearings simply because judges (who are also attorneys) preside over them.

Getting a disability lawyer in Texas is one of the best ways to prepare for your hearing. But adequately preparing for you hearing also means obtaining a social security attorney prior to the hearing date. Ideally, you should get a lawyer at least two months prior to your ssd or ssi hearing so the lawyer will have plenty of time to prepare, i.e. gather your medical records, make copies of them, send copies to the judge handling your case, and read them himself.

Most likely, your disability representative (meaning your disability attorney or your non-attorney disability representative who may be a former SSA employee) will attempt to obtain what is known as a medical source statement from at least one of your treating physicians. Medical source statements can be powerful tools for winning cases at the administrative law judge disability hearing and such statements can provide evidence that is far superior to simply one's medical records which very often do not possess the type of information regarding an individual's functional limitations which is needed to win a claim.

Your disability representative will probably also inquire, prior to a hearing, into your case file and vocational work history. Therefore, properly preparing for a Social Security Disability hearing will also include:

A) Reviewing your Social Security file to learn why your claim was denied at the application and reconsideration appeals,

B) Learning about your medical treatment history, including your diagnoses, treatment, and reponse to treatment, and

C) Learning about your work history -- this is vital since SSA denies most claims on the basis of a claimant's supposed ability to perform some type of other work even if they cannot return to their past work.

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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