Those seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may have their claims approved without representation. But since most claims are denied initially, claimants are recommended to seek legal representation from the beginning. Anything submitted to Social Security may become evidence at a hearing, so it should be reviewed carefully.
If the claim is denied initially, then a Request for Reconsideration must be filed within 60 days. If that is denied, and most reconsideration decisions uphold initial denials, then claimants have 60 days to request a hearing.
It is especially important to be represented at a hearing, where represented claimants are twice as likely to be approved as unrepresented claimants.
Disability hearings are like judicial proceedings, but with no attorney on the other side. The Administrative Law Judge, although not an adversary, may ask probing questions. Before COVID, these hearings were typically held in Social Security Administration (SSA) hearing centers. Now, they are by telephone and more recently, by video conference. It is unclear if SSA will return to in-person hearings; they may continue to do most of their hearings by video in the future.
Disability Hearings & How the Procedure Works
For your disability hearing, you may submit evidence, such as medical reports, but regulations require that to be done at least a week before the hearing. You may also review your file before the hearing in case something needs correction or explanation. The Administrative Law Judge will review your file and any evidence supporting your claim.
During the hearing, you will give sworn testimony regarding your occupation, your medical conditions and current limitations, along with some other relevant topics. The Administrative Law Judge will ask questions while you may present such witnesses as medical professionals to make your case. Almost all hearings for adults now have a vocational expert- a job placement specialist called by the Administrative Law Judge to give testimony on jobs common to your local economy, if any. These considerations are made given hypothetical sets of limitations.
What if Your claim is denied after the hearing?
If the Administrative Law Judge turns down your claim, you have 60 days to submit a written request for review by the Appeals Council. If that is denied, you have to right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 60 days, asking the court to review the Social Security decision.
What if your claim is approved?
Social Security benefit amounts can be complicated. It may help to ask someone with expertise in this area, to be sure you receive all the benefits you should.
SSI & How to Apply
Are you in need of SSI but don’t know where to turn? You or someone on your behalf may submit an application for SSI at www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi/ and learn how to apply.
William C. Bernhardi Law Offices, PLLC is here to fight for your case and help you reach the safety net that you deserve. We focus our law practice in Social Security disability benefits cases. Our attorneys continue to stay up to date on the latest legislation, regulations and court decisions, to help clients navigate the application and approval processes. Please feel free to call us if you need help with Social Security Disability or SSI.