If you are thinking about filing for social security disability benefits it is important to understand the process. The cycle of an SSD claim can be quite lengthy so having a basic understanding of each step will be helpful. Last week I reviewed the second step. This article will review the third step. This stage is referred to as the Hearing or 2nd Appeal.
If you receive a notice that your request for reconsideration of your Social Security disability claim has been denied (Stage 2) and you want to appeal again, you must request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). You have 60 days from the date of your denied reconsideration to request this hearing. You can see why this is a long process – appeals, 60 day deadlines, and more appeals.
How to Request a Disability Hearing in Front of an ALJ
There are three ways that you can apply to request a hearing in front of a judge:
- Sending in forms, or
- Writing a letter to your local Social Security office
You must request a hearing in writing in one of the above ways.
When you request a hearing, your case will be reviewed by an ALJ, who are attorneys that work for the SSA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. They can do one of three things:
- Approve your claim,
- Send your case back for review, or
- Deny your claim.
First, the good news. At this stage, about 67% of the claims are approved. However, the average length of time to go through this Stage 3 appeal is almost 12 months. Stage 3 can take a large amount of time to get to, but if you have the time, desire and assistance it also provides the highest chance of having your Social Security disability claim approved.
At the hearing, you appear in person and can argue why you deserve a medical-vocational allowance. The primary goal at this stage is to deny the claim or issue a favorable/partially favorable determination and award Social Security disability benefits to the claimant.
There are several items to note that are unique at a Level 3 hearing and why you should have a qualified disability attorney present with you at this level. This is a legal hearing and while less formal, there is still protocol to follow.
- You can and should be present, along with your attorney or representative, and you will testify regarding your condition. Your attorney can assist you in answering questions from the judge.
- Witnesses can be present, such as a doctor or other vocational experts, whom the judge will also question regarding your conditions. An attorney can cross-examine these witnesses.
- You can submit additional evidence, which should have been submitted within ten days of the date that you filed the request for a hearing. If you are not able to submit your new medical evidence within that time frame, you may request an extension from the ALJ to submit the new evidence.
After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will consider all the evidence and testimony presented and he or she will render an independent written decision, of which you will receive a copy within one to two months following the hearing date. If your claim is approved you will receive both a Notice of Decision and a Notice of Award. If your claim is denied, you can move to the next Stage – Appeal #3, the Appeals Council.
Are you starting to see why this process is so lengthy?
For more information, click here. Remember, working with a lawyer can help keep this process on track so you can get the disability coverage you deserve.