Hearings and Case Development
Social Security disability applicants bear the burden of proving their disability claim. Medical evidence, testimony from friends and family, statements from employers, and your own statements about your limitations and how they interfere with your ability to perform full-time work are central to proving your claim. Inconsistent statements and statements that overstate your limitations undermine the credibility of your evidence. Doctor’s statements can prove your disability if they are carefully crafted. However, a doctor’s statement that you are “disabled” has very little weight under the rules. We will help you prove your claim at each stage of determination – making sure that you maintain your credibility, as well as the credibility of your doctors, friends, and employers!
Hearings Before an Administrative Law Judge
Unless you are hospital bound or suffering a terminal illness, it is unlikely that your claim for disability benefits will be approved upon initial application. The Social Security Administration application process has two levels of appeal prior to requesting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
The first level of consideration is the “initial” level of determination. After you are denied at this level, you have sixty days to file an appeal – your request for “reconsideration.” After your appeal is filed, you have the opportunity to add more medical records and statements to your record. Often Social Security will request that you see psychiatrists or physicians to determine your level of functioning. Then, doctors you’ve never seen evaluate your claim, and most often recommend denying your claim at this level of “reconsideration.” After this second denial of benefits, you may request a hearing before a judge.
Hearings before an ALJ often take a year or more to get scheduled. During this time, you must continue to add to your record with medical evidence, doctor’s statements, and other evidence. At your hearing, the judge may request the attendance of a medical expert and a vocational expert to provide additional testimony. Hearings are when you provide the real human story that your medical records fail to convey. Only a skilled trial attorney can help you make the best use of your hearing to prove your claim!