How To Prepare For A Hearing On A Claim For Disability Benefits

If you are scheduled for a hearing on a claim for disability benefits, it is important to understand what will happen at the hearing and how you can best prepare for that hearing.  Generally, you will be notified by the time and date of the hearing about 75-90 days prior to the hearing.  Currently, due to the Covid-19 crisis, all hearings are being conducted via telephone.  At this time, it is important for you (or your attorney) to begin gathering the medical records of all of your medical treatment that has occurred since the date that the hearing was requested. At other levels of the process, the Social Security Administration requests the records, but when you are at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, the burden is on the claimant to request the records and provide them to the Judge at least five business days prior to the date of the hearing.   It is also important at this point to obtain an updated statement from your physician or other individuals from whom you receive treatment about your condition and work capacity.  An attorney can assist in obtaining a statement that addresses any outstanding issues in your claim, clears up any confusion, or answers the specific questions that might be important to the Judge.

At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will have reviewed your medical records, statements about your condition, and its impact on your function and your work history.  The purpose of the hearing is to determine if you have a condition that is severe enough to preclude you from doing your past work or any other work that exists in the national economy.  Sometimes the Judge will call a medical expert to testify about your medical history and condition and if you meet certain criteria for disability or how severe your functional limitations are.   The Judge will also allow your attorney (it’s a very good idea to retain an attorney at this time) to make arguments on your behalf about the nature and severity of your condition as well as how your conditional prevents you from performing work.  Often the Judge will ask you questions about your past work, your condition, and your ability to function.  Your attorney will also ask you questions about those subjects and the attorney questions are designed to provide additional support to your contention that you are unable to engage in substantial work activity and that you meet the criteria for disability benefits.

At most hearings, a vocational expert will also testify about how your past work would be classified, the types of job skills you may have that might transfer to other types of work, and the jobs that might exist in the national economy for an individual with your education, skills and work capacity.  It is invaluable to have an experienced attorney at this time who can cross examine the medical expert about how your specific limitations impact the job base and your ability to sustain work.

Generally, you will not receive a clear answer at the time of the hearing about whether or not you will be awarded benefits.  The Judge will prepare and mail a lengthy written statement outlining your medical history, treatment, and functional impairments. The document will either make a favorable or unfavorable finding about your entitlement to benefits.   Sometimes, your attorney will have a very good idea of how the Judge will rule and will be able to tell you after hearing what they believe the decision will be.

If you are scheduled for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge on a claim for disability benefits, it is very important to obtain the assistance of an attorney who has experience with claims before the Social Security Administration.  In general, if you have been denied benefits twice by the Social Security Administration and your claim needs to be adjudicated by a Judge, it is reasonable to assume that there are problems with the claim and the assistance of an attorney who can help provide additional information or clear arguments to clear up those problems is invaluable.  It is also important to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney as soon as possible.  Gathering medical records must be obtained from each of your doctors and the clinics often use outside copy services that can be backlogged and slow to respond.  Our office provides no-cost evaluations of claims and can assist you with all levels of claims, including claims that are scheduled for a hearing.  We do not receive a fee for services unless you are awarded benefits.

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