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Most first-time applications for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are denied. Even applicants with qualifying disabilities are often rejected due to insufficient medical documentation or other errors in the application process.
Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers an appeals process. One key step in this process is an administrative hearing, in which you have the opportunity for an administrative law judge (ALJ) to review your claim. While you are not required to work with an attorney to apply for SSD benefits or appeal a denied claim, having a knowledgeable disability lawyer on your side can increase your chances for approval.
The Cincinnati disability attorneys at Young, Reverman & Mazzei have extensive experience helping SSD applicants recover the benefits they need. If you need help applying for SSD benefits or appealing a claim that you believe was wrongfully denied, please call us today at 800-721-1678 or contact us online. We welcome clients from the greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, areas as well as individuals from northern Kentucky and eastern Indiana.
What is an SSD Administrative Hearing?
An administrative hearing is the second step in the SSD appeals process. If you receive a letter of denial from the SSA, you have 60 days to file a request for reconsideration.
In the reconsideration phase, a new case processor will review your initial application as well as any additional evidence you have since gathered to support your disability claim. This may include medical documentation, income verification and other details.
If your claim is again rejected at the reconsideration stage, you will have 60 days to request a hearing before an ALJ. This administrative hearing is an opportunity to clarify information, submit expert testimony to support your claim, and offer additional evidence.
SSD administrative hearings are generally held in conference room-like settings and are less formal than traditional courtroom proceedings. These hearings are not open to the public, but they are recorded in case you want to appeal the administrative law judge’s decision afterward. SSA hearings may also be held by video conference if an in-person hearing is not possible due to medical or travel issues.
If you are working with an attorney, your lawyer can accompany you to the hearing and present your argument to the ALJ.
Preparing for an Administrative Hearing
Winning an SSD appeal takes careful research and preparation, which can be overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with the process. If you appeal your claim after the reconsideration step, the SSA is required to provide 75 days’ advance notice of your administrative hearing.
After an SSD application or reconsideration denial, it’s a good idea to conduct a thorough review of your application and case file, either alone or with the help of an experienced disability lawyer. This can alert you to any missing evidence and identify opportunities to better support your claim.
The period between when you request your administrative hearing and the hearing itself allows time for you—or you and your attorney—to gather up-to-date medical records, have new tests performed and assemble any additional supporting documentation. Written statements from friends, family, and employers regarding your disability are also accepted during an SSA hearing. These statements can be submitted to the hearing office prior to the date of your hearing.
A disability lawyer can be a great help in preparing for and guiding you through the administrative hearing. Depending on the unique circumstances of your individual claim, your attorney may:
- Submit additional evidence to support your claim
- Present experts to provide testimony regarding your disability
- Represent you before the administrative law judge
- Clarify information presented in earlier filings
In addition, if your claim is again denied after the administrative hearing, an attorney can further lead your appeal before a Social Security Appeals Council review or a federal court review.
What Happens During an Administrative Hearing?
At the SSA administrative hearing, you will be sworn in and testify before a judge regarding your medical conditions and history, as well as the limitations that your medical condition has placed on your ability to earn income.
You’ll also need to be prepared to answer detailed questions about your daily activities, your employment history, and educational background. This information will give the ALJ an accurate portrayal of the impacts your disability has on your life.
Witnesses called to the hearing will also be questioned regarding your disability and the effects it has had on your ability to work. Your attorney can argue your case and question witnesses, as well as submit evidence on your behalf.
You will not receive a decision on the same day as your hearing. After the hearing, the ALJ will review all evidence and testimony before issuing a decision by letter. The judge will send both you and your attorney (if you have one) a copy of the decision.
What if My SSD Claim is Denied After an Administrative Hearing?
In the event that your claim is again denied after the administrative hearing, you can further appeal the decision to the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision and either rule definitively on your claim or send your claim back to the ALJ for additional review.
You will not be able to submit new evidence at this point in the appeals process. If the Appeals Council denies your request for review, you may appeal for a federal court review.
A federal court review is the last step in the SSD appeals process. This stage requires you to file a civil lawsuit, and it is strongly recommended to work with an attorney if you need to advance your SSD appeal to this step.
How a Disability Attorney Can Help with SSD Appeals
If you did not contact an attorney as you prepared your initial SSD application, the appeals process may be a good time to consult with an experienced disability lawyer.
Although applicants are allowed to represent themselves at administrative hearings, attorneys who specialize in disability claims can help with many aspects of the appeals process. An attorney can prepare you for questioning, gather medical records and other documentation, and submit evidence on your behalf.
Disability lawyers have intimate knowledge of the SSD application and appeals processes, and they understand how to argue your case before an administrative law judge or—if necessary—in federal court. In fact, a recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that SSD applicants who obtained legal representation were more than twice as likely to be approved for benefits than those without an attorney.
Disability Lawyers Serving Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky
If you need help applying for Social Security Disability benefits or appealing a denied claim, please call the skilled disability lawyers at Young, Reverman & Mazzei today at 800-721-1678 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.
We’re proud to represent disabled individuals from the greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, areas. We also work with clients along the Interstate 75 and Interstate 71 corridors in Campbell, Boone and Kenton counties in Kentucky and Dearborn County in Indiana.
Please see our locations page for a complete list of our offices and directions.