Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Disability Hearings
Securing Social Security disability benefits can be a challenge. Most initial applications are denied, and even fewer are approved at the Request for Reconsideration stage. So, how does an ALJ hearing fit into the process?
The ALJ Process
Requesting an ALJ Hearing
You will have the opportunity to request an ALJ hearing after your Request for Reconsideration is denied. You can make that request by completing Form HA-501 on the Social Security Administration’s website or by writing a letter. You must make this request within 60 days of receiving the denial of your Request for Reconsideration.
You are also required to submit additional forms, including a Disability Report and a new authorization for third parties such as medical providers to provide information to Social Security. At this stage, at the ALJ hearing, you will also submit an Appointment of Representative form if you intend to be represented by another person, including a Social Security disability attorney.
The paperwork you submit with your hearing request can significantly impact the success or failure of your claim. So, it is usually in your best interests to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney before making the hearing request, rather than waiting until you have a hearing scheduled.
Preparing for the ALJ Hearing
In some states, new evidence that you would like the ALJ to consider must be submitted five days before the hearing date. This is another reason that it is beneficial to ensure that you have the guidance you need before asking for a formal hearing and adequate time to assemble your evidence. New evidence may be presented for the first time at the hearing in other states.
The order of procedures may differ from case to case, as the ALJ has some discretion regarding how the formal hearing proceeds. For example, the ALJ may hold a pre-hearing phone conference, if they think that will help move the case along more smoothly, or if the final decision won’t require much deliberation.
The ALJ Hearing and Determination Process
The ALJ determines the order of proceedings at the hearing, including when and how evidence is considered. Under some circumstances, you may have the opportunity to present witnesses at the hearing. Here, too, the ALJ has significant discretion. For example, most ALJ hearings occur in one session, but the ALJ may decide to stop the hearing and reconvene later if he or she feels that important evidence is missing.
An experienced Social Security disability attorney can help prepare you for the possibilities before the ALJ hearing. After the hearing, you will receive a written decision. If the decision is negative, you may still be able to obtain disability benefits by appealing the decision in federal court.
Whether you’ve just received a denial after a Request for Reconsideration and are considering requesting an ALJ hearing, have already requested a hearing, or have been denied at the ALJ stage, you have additional opportunities for appeal. Appealing can overturn the ALJ decision and get you the care you need. The sooner you get knowledgeable guidance and representation, the better.