Social Security Disability Hearings
If you get denied by Social Security, your best chance of getting disability will be at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Here we discuss how to prepare for, and how to win a Social Security Disability Hearing.
The disability appeal process is a lengthy one at best, and the wait for an administrative law judge hearing is a big part of the wait. But, although the wait can be long, the chances of winning your disability benefits at a hearing are the best of any level of the Social Security Disability process.
In fact, statistics have indicated that as many as two thirds of all individuals who attend a disability hearing win their case. This may be the best chance for you to be approved for disability benefits, so it is important to do everything in your power to make things favorable for your case.
Preparing for a disability hearing
The fundamental ways to prepare for a disability hearing include the following:
- Understanding why you were previously given a disability denial
- Understanding what you need to have to prove you are disabled
- Obtaining the right evidence to present at a disability hearing
- Preparing a presentation to the administrative law judge as to why you should be approved
Understanding why you were denied
This means reading your Social Security file containing the medical and vocational evidence that was gathered. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to understand the denial because Social Security uses a complex system of medical-vocational rules, involving your age, education, work skills, and your residual functional capacity (what you are still able to do, despite your condition).
The system is complex. Disability examiners who decide cases are trained for a year before they have a solid understanding of cases. Because the system is so complex, having disability representation for a hearing before a federal judge is necessary in most cases to ensure that your case is properly prepared. In my own case, I am a disability representative and a former disability examiner as well.
Getting the right evidence for a case
Often, this will be a matter of researching a person’s work history to understand what the requirements of their past jobs were, and even if those jobs are relevant to the case. If a person did not do a job long enough, or did not earn a certain amount while doing it, it may not be relevant to the case at all. Additionally, Social Security sometimes does not properly classify a person’s past work. And this can result in a wrong decision. This may be something your representative can uncover.
Medical statements from doctors
Of course, medical evidence from will be the core of any case. Unfortunately, Social Security makes no attempt to gather statements from your doctors. A good disability representative, of course, will attempt to obtain “medical source statements. Why? Because they help win cases. My office routinely requests such statements because they can be the key to winning a case. A statement from a doctor, captured on the right type of form, can often do what medical records alone cannot do, and can often say what a disability judge needs to hear. And this is why we get them.
Preparing for the disability hearing
Preparation includes getting the most recent medical records you have for your hearing. Again, unfortunately, when someone applies for disability, they never realize this all too important fact: after you request a disability hearing, Social Security does no additional evidence gathering for your case. Their case development stops.
This means that if you don’t have your hearing for several months, to over a year, after you have requested it, and were not aware of this fact, you could arrive at your hearing unable to be approved. You can only be approved if you have current records. And this is part of what disability representative does.
This is why our office places a strong emphasis on knowing who your doctors are, and having you keep us up-to-date with your medical treatment so that we can have your most recent records available at the time of your hearing. And by knowing everything we can know about your case, we are able to present the strongest argument for approval to your judge.
A crucial way to prepare for your hearing
In addition to gathering and analyzing your case evidence, you and your representative need to do pre-hearing preparation. This can be done over the phone, but should be done in person whenever possible. This meeting can include discussion of your case and prepare you for how the hearing will be conducted, i.e. how it proceeds, what questions are asked, the most efficient and effective ways you should honestly respond to questions, and otherwise how to comport yourself, including how to dress for your hearing.
This site, SSDRC, provides information on the Social Security Disability and SSI system, which is federal and standardized. Therefore, the information pertains no matter which state you live in. However, if you need assistance in North Carolina, you can contact us through this free consultation form and we may be able to assist you.
Click to submit this North Carolina Disability Evaluation form. Please allow at least a full day for us to get in touch with you.