You can’t work due to a disabling injury or illness, but when you applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied your claim. Not to be deterred, you started an appeal by filing a request for Reconsideration, hoping to have the initial evidence you submitted and any new or additional information or documentation you’ve obtained evaluated by fresh eyes at the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. Unfortunately, your request for Reconsideration was also denied.
If the SSA denied your initial SSDI application and Reconsideration request, you’re not alone. The agency denies the majority of claims; often, these denials result from insufficient medical evidence or preventable mistakes in the application paperwork or process. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up. A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ, is the next step in the SSA’s four-level SSDI appeals process. Here’s what you need to know about ALJ hearings, including how working with knowledgeable and experienced Boston disability attorneys like the team at Keefe Disability Lawyers can help reduce your stress and increase your chances for a successful appeal at this crucial stage.
What an ALJ Hearing Entails
An ALJ hearing is a live court proceeding conducted by an Administrative Law Judge, either in person or via phone or video conference. Though ALJ hearings are official courtroom proceedings that include testimony under oath (and the penalty of perjury), they aren’t contentious legal showdowns. Instead, they’re a chance to present your case before an independent federal judge who’s well-versed in disability claims and able to reverse your SSDI denial in response to convincing evidence and arguments.
What to Expect
ALJ hearings are typically attended by the Administrative Law Judge who presides over the hearing, as well as a court reporter, you – the claimant – and, ideally, your disability attorney or advocate. These proceedings often include testimony from your own witnesses (like family members, caregivers, or treating physicians) and SSA witnesses such as vocational and medical experts. Additionally, while you won’t be cross-examined (questioned by an SSA lawyer), you can expect the ALJ to ask wide-ranging questions regarding the following:
- The extent and severity of your disability
- The results of diagnostic tests
- Other evidence supporting the existence, severity, and duration of your disabling medical impairment
- Whether you can continue working at your current job (if applicable)
- Whether you’re capable of moving to another position
- Whether you can perform any kind of work you’ve done previously
In some cases, the ALJ may deliver an immediate verdict. However, frequently, they’ll need additional time to review all the evidence, and you’ll receive a letter informing you of the decision.
Requesting an ALJ Hearing
Once you’ve received the Reconsideration denial, you have 60 days to request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge. You can make the request by either completing the appropriate form online, over the phone or by printing it and mailing it to your local Social Security office.
How an SSDI Lawyer Can Help You Prepare for an ALJ Hearing and Present a Convincing Case
Working with a seasoned disability lawyer is key to successfully navigating the SSDI appeals process. In addition to protecting your rights before, an SSDI attorney can help you prepare for an ALJ hearing by doing the following:
- Performing a thorough evaluation of your initial SSDI application and subsequent denials
- Identifying strengths and weaknesses in your claim and taking advantage of opportunities to build an even stronger case
- Working with your doctors to gather the necessary evidence and documentation, and arrange it in a user-friendly format the ALJ knows and expects
- Ensuring you meet all legal deadlines applicable to your SSDI appeal
- And much more
ALJ hearings offer an excellent chance for reversing an SSDI denial, with more than half of decisions nationwide favoring claimants. However, obtaining exceptional legal counsel is critical, as nearly 90 percent of claimants who received favorable decisions were represented by attorneys.
Schedule a Free Consultation
Ready to find out what Keefe Disability Lawyers can do for your SSDI appeal? Complete the online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a complimentary consultation. Worried you can’t afford an attorney? We take cases on contingency. Contact us today!