The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefit programs to individuals who cannot work due to a medical condition, however, more than two-thirds of initial benefit claims are denied. While it is possible to appeal a denial, the process is complicated and involves a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. The best way to protect your rights to these vital public benefits is to consult an experienced Social Security disability benefits attorney.
Disability Law Group provides first-rate legal services to disabled individuals and their families who are seeking disability benefits. If your disability benefits claim has been denied, our legal team will help you navigate the appeals process, which includes representation at the disability hearing. Well-versed in the eligibility requirements for disability benefits, we have a proven history of helping our clients obtain the benefits they deserve. When you become our client, you will have peace of mind knowing that your disability benefits claim is in good hands with your best interests in mind.
An Overview on Social Security Disability Appeals
Disability benefit claims can be denied for a wide variety of reasons, most often because SSA’s medical examiner deems the medical condition(s) listed on the application to be not severe enough to keep the applicant from working. Furthermore, technical issues (such as insufficient work credits or failure to return or complete paperwork) also frequently result in a denial. An experienced attorney can help you understand whether you have accumulated sufficient work credits to qualify and how to best position your claim for approval. Even at the initial application stage, an attorney who specializes in disability benefits can help ensure that your application is complete, sufficiently detailed and that no deadlines are missed.
When a disability benefits claim is denied, the SSA sends a denial notice which explains the reason(s) for the denial. The notice also informs the applicant that he or she has a right to appeal the decision. The first stage of a disability appeal is to file a Request for Reconsideration or a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, which must be submitted within 60 days of receiving the denial notice.
If a Reconsideration Hearing is requested, the claim will be reevaluated by an SSA medical consultant and an examiner who were not involved in the initial decision/denial. If a denial from a Reconsideration Hearing is issued, the next step involves submitting a request for a disability hearing. You can consult with a disability lawyer in Michigan to determine what appeal process is best for you given the facts of your case.
What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing
Disability hearings are conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and are relatively informal. These ALJs strictly hear cases concerning disability appeals and they typically adjudicate hundreds of cases each year, resulting in a variety of outcomes for each case, including Fully Favorable, Partially Favorable, or Unfavorable Decisions and Dismissals.
A disability hearing typically takes place in a small hearing room at an SSA field office within 75 miles of the applicant’s residence. A hearing via video conference may also be an option, but may only be advisable for your attorney in limited circumstances depending on the case. These hearings are not open to the public, however, and the only people who will be present are the ALJ, the applicant, his or her disability benefits attorney, a hearing monitor or court reporter, and any witnesses.
The ALJ will start the hearing by identifying all the parties and reading a statement of facts about the disability benefits claim. The judge will then ask the claimant questions about his or her medical condition and treatment, employment history, and the limitations the disability or disabilities impose. It is crucial that the claimant answer the judge’s questions honestly and also provide specific examples of how the disability affects his or her ability to do daily activities. For instance, the claimant may be instructed to testify about his or her ability to do household chores, cook meals, and attend social gatherings. Any restrictions completing day-to-day tasks and events like these should be noted as it helps put the applicant’s disabilities into perspective on a more personal level and, in turn, helps the ALJ understand how their conditions might impact the person’s ability to do work activities.
After the applicant’s testimony, his or her attorney is given a chance to speak on behalf of the claimant and ask additional questions. If there are expert witnesses present, the judge may also ask for their opinions. In this situation, a medical expert – usually a doctor, can provide insights about the diagnosis and prognosis of the medical condition. Similarly, and most commonly, a vocational expert is present in adult disability hearings (either in person or by phone) to testify about the demands of a particular job, and how the applicant’s disability may prevent him or her from performing that type of work. At the end of the hearing, the judge may ask a few more questions and give the applicant, and his or her attorney, a chance to make a final statement.
It is important to note that the judge is not bound by the decisions that were made at the initial stage prior to the appeal or the reconsideration claim. In fact, the ALJ is responsible for reviewing the case from a fresh perspective and making a fair ruling about the claim. Therefore, it is important that each case is fully prepared prior to the hearing, with all medical evidence submitted, and that those testifying be sufficiently prepared for the hearing. Our attorneys will also draft and submit briefs or memorandums in support for each case to help streamline the process, ensuring that the ALJ’s understand all issues presented and our theory of the claimant’s disability, directing them to the corresponding medical evidence in the file. After the hearing, a written notice is sent to the claimant, usually within 60 to 90 days of the hearing date.
Why You Need Disability Law Group in Your Corner
If you are seeking disability benefits and your claim has been denied, you need the compassionate, honest, and zealous representation Disability Law Group will provide. We will guide you through the process from the application through appeals and handle all aspects of your disability hearing. By working closely with your treating physician and any specialists, we will compile the necessary medical information to support your claim. Our attorneys strictly handle disability claims and through our experience, we will gather all helpful evidence and testimony about how your medical condition prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity to give you the advantage you deserve.
Contact Our Michigan Disability Attorney
While the thought of speaking before an Administrative Law Judge may seem intimidating, you will take comfort in how our team will prepare you at every stage with your attorney standing by you during the hearing and after. You should remember that this is not a trial, it’s more like a discussion where we meet to work out the best resolution of your claim — helping you obtain the disability benefits you deserve. Our experienced disability benefits attorneys have a well-deserved reputation for being skilled and caring advocates of the disabled, and a proven history of successful outcomes at disability hearings. Please contact our office as soon as possible to set up a free evaluation of your claim.