If your disability claim was denied, a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is the second level of appeals. A hearing gives you the opportunity to prove your disability in person, so it is important that you are prepared for your day in court.
Below, our disability lawyers share how applicants should prepare to attend a disability hearing to help improve their chances of approval. Schedule a free consultation to learn how hiring legal representation is to your advantage at this phase of an appeal.
Review Your Case File in Detail
After your first appeal is denied and you request an ALJ hearing to appeal the reconsideration decision, it can take many months to over a year to get a date for the hearing. This wait provides you with ample time to prepare, starting with the details of your claim.
Take time to thoroughly review the information in your case file. When you get to your hearing, the ALJ also has access to these documents and will use them to assess your appeal.
Go over the information in your initial disability application as well as any communications you have been sent by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Make sure information is accurate and look for missing evidence so you are able to gather what you need before the hearing.
Gather Current Medical Records
Be sure to collect up-to-date medical records regarding your disability. Failing to gather these medical records could hurt your chances at a favorable ruling. Do not rely on the SSA doing so prior to your hearing, as they do not typically update your case file once transferred to the ALJ's office.
Current medical records can provide proof of new developments affecting your condition. Since your initial claim, you may have started a new treatment or began to experience new symptoms or limitations. Your doctors observations are recorded in your medical records, providing credible information to help prove your disability.
Send the ALJ copies of all new medical records – your appeal hearing notice lists an address for submitting documents. Always keep copies of these records for yourself to reference if needed.
Obtain Statements From Medical Experts
Your treating doctor's opinion about your condition is also important to collect before the hearing. Ask your doctor to write a statement in support of your disability claim – if your doctor previously provided a statement that was submitted with your initial claim, ask him or her to create a new statement that reflects the current state of your condition.
Your doctor's statement should be detailed. It needs to explain your specific functional limitations – the work activities you cannot perform due to your disability. The statement can be in the form of a detailed letter or your doctor can complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) report form.
In addition to your doctor's statement, obtain statements from others who know your limitations. Request a letter about how your disability affects your everyday life from people such as:
- Former employers
- Social workers
- Family members
Seek Legal Assistance With Your Case
It is not recommended that you try to represent yourself at an ALJ hearing. Seeking legal assistance from an experienced disability attorney can be beneficial for several reasons.
An attorney can guide you throughout the process, from gathering the medical evidence needed and submitting it to the ALJ for review on your behalf. This process can be time-consuming to handle alone.
Another part of the preparation is getting you ready to answer questions about your disability before the ALJ. An attorney may conduct a mock hearing to ask you things that the ALJ could potentially inquire about during the actual disability hearing.
Get Help From Our Disability Attorneys
Proper preparation may improve the likelihood of a favorable ruling from an ALJ at a disability hearing. The Phoenix Social Security Disability attorneys at Dayes Law Firm have represented many claimants during the appeals process, fighting to secure the disability benefits they need.
Request a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how we may be able to help you. There are no upfront fees and payment is only due if we recover compensation on your behalf.
Give us a call at 1-800-503-2000 to get started.