The Social Security Administration denies about 66% of initial Social Security disability claims, so the initial denial appeals are common. The next step is a request for reconsideration. Despite valid injuries, this too may be denied. The next level is an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The format is less formal than criminal or civil cases conducted in a courtroom, but it still can be stressful and requires preparation.
Presenting the case before a judge
Each claim is different, which means that some will be more complex than others. Typically, the hearing involves the claimant and witness testimony. Other people present may include the claimant’s attorney or representative, a vocational expert and a medical expert. As in court, the court reporter will swear in the claimant and the witnesses. The proceedings are also officially documented.
The judge will conduct the hearing, discussing the details of the claim. He or she will likely ask the claimant about their injuries and ability to work. They will likely also call upon the witnesses to provide insight into the nature of the claimant’s work experience and injuries. The claimant may ask questions of the witnesses as well.
The judge will conclude the hearing. They will then examine the evidence and testimony and issue a decision via mail. If the hearing’s outcome is unfavorable, the claimant can then proceed to the SSA Appeals Council.
Many injured workers file their initial claims on their own. As the appeals process continues towards an SSA Appeals Council, it is increasingly helpful to have guidance by a lawyer who regularly handles SSDI or SSI claims, hearings and appeals.