Having your social security disability claim denied, especially after reconsideration, can be stressful and extremely discouraging. You may feel like there is nowhere left to turn, but the fact of the matter is, that simply isn’t true. Another attempt can be made through a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ.
If you decide you would like to proceed with a hearing, you must request it within 60 days of receiving your decision letter. There are 5 days allotted after this period for the SSA office to receive your request, so technically it’s 65 days, but the point is to get it done early. You don’t want to miss the deadline. There are three ways to request a hearing with an ALJ. The first is by requesting it online. You can also mail in the paperwork, or bring it directly to the SSA office. Finally, if you are having trouble with either of these processes, you can simply send a letter to the SSA office, and someone will assist you with putting together the rest of the required information. Within 10 days of filing your hearing request, you must submit all new medical evidence. For more information on the filing process, check out our other blog.
Here is where the waiting begins. Scheduling a hearing can be a lengthy process, so while you wait it is important to keep a detailed record of all medical treatment. You can also request an OTR Review, or an on-the-record review of your case. Someone will review your case once again, by looking through your medical records and gathering evidence through conversations with you, your doctors, and any other witnesses, to see if you should be awarded Disability benefits. If the review is granted, your hearing can be avoided entirely, and the process becomes much shorter. If not, you can still go on to the hearing as planned, with no penalties, or implications for your hearing.
About 20 to 30 days before your hearing date, you’ll receive notice, and this is the time to get yourself ready. You’ll need to submit all current medical records (within the past 60 to 90 days), along with a Brief. The Brief is a document that shows the reasons why you should win your case. This document is something your lawyer will be able to help you with, if not take care of entirely.
The people involved in your hearing will be the ALJ, yourself, your attorney, a Vocational Expert, a Medical Expert, and any witnesses to your disability or injury. Your hearing will be informal; it may even take place via video chat or in a hotel conference room, depending on your distance from your SSA office. I suggest that you wear your everyday clothing, as long as it is respectful. Even if it is an informal hearing, it is important to BE ON TIME. Being late, even 10 minutes, could cause some ALJ’s to dismiss your case. To be safe, arrive 30 minutes prior to the meeting location. The hearing will only last between 15 minutes and an hour, so don’t be surprised or discouraged if it seems too short. After all, more than half of all cases that go to an ALJ are approved.
If you are approved for benefits, you will receive a Notice of Decision letter with either a “Favorable” or “Partially Favorable” subject line from the Judge. You will also receive a Notice of Award from the SSA office, with your benefit expectancy and any notice of back pay owed.
If you are denied, you will receive a Notice of Decision letter with an “Unfavorable” subject line. After this, you can bring your claim to an Appeals council. However, the chances of having the decision of an ALJ overturned are slim.
Going through the claims process with the SSA can be complicated and stressful. If you or a loved one, is in the process of applying for Social Security Disability Benefits, or has been denied, you may need the assistance of an experienced local attorney. Contact your Central Florida attorneys at the Coye Law Firm, for a free consultation and more information on the claims process.