Each year, millions of individuals around the nation apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Unfortunately, a high percentage of those applicants are often denied during the first two stages (the initial and reconsideration stages) of the application process.
Following their first appeal, many would carry onto the second one: a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge or an ALJ. It has been reported that more than 50% of the applicants typically get approved and so it seems that the chances of winning their case are bigger this time. The downside to this, however, is the long, arduous wait which can bring about a string of other unfortunate inconveniences on your end. To start with, it takes about two years just to finally get one’s court date. At this juncture, it is important that you make preparations ahead of time to make all your efforts worth it and to ensure your SSD approval.
Preparation is A MUST
Getting ready for a court hearing can be nerve-racking, especially with the pressure of getting everything done perfectly in order to tip the scales in your favor on that crucial day. It doesn’t have to be complicated if you are able to take care of certain measures during the preparation process and remember to properly execute them at the right time during the legal proceedings. In this way, you can confidently face whatever it is that will come your way.
Social Security Representative or Attorney
If your court date is drawing near, then it is expected that you already have employed the services of a competent lawyer who specializes in handling SSD cases. Without one, winning your disability case cannot be guaranteed especially if a qualified social security lawyer or representative is not present. You do not want to waste any precious time finding the right attorney to handle your case, so the earlier you are able to schedule a consultation, the more guided your efforts will be and the more assured you will feel that you are indeed in the right track. An experienced lawyer can help you avoid making common mistakes while anticipating and preparing for any issues that may arise during your SSD hearing. They can also make sure that you have all of the proper documentation regarding your medications and treatments to ensure that the judge fully understands your case.
Dress Formally but Comfortably
Social Security Disability hearings can last anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour and are considered to be formal, and yet informal in some respects. They are formal in a way that one has to be placed under oath with the rules of perjury being applied. In another sense, it is also informal since it is more of a conversation rather than an interrogation. It is during this time that you are able to speak with the judge about your condition and how it poses a hindrance to your physical ability to work.
Remember to dress properly and comfortably in a similar way one would do in a business setting. Try not to appear too lavish to the point of drawing away attention from your intended objectives, nor look too unkempt and disrespectful with the intention to appear pitiful.
Medical Experts and Testimonies
The judge may request for the presence of a medical expert, specifically a physician who was able to examine your medical records beforehand. The medical expert is going to provide a testimony about your physical wellbeing especially in regards to your ability to render work and some possible limitations that it can bring about.
The presence of a vocational expert is also required to assess both the your mental and physical condition, as well as to testify whether certain jobs exist that the applicant could do granted the conditions and restraints on his or her activities. You may also bring witnesses that may help you by testifying in favor of your case.
Topics of Discussion
The topics that are typically discussed that you need to prepare for are your resume, some unmentionables, and activities related to daily living that are associated with your medical condition. The inclusion of your resume in the discussion is usually a way to confirm your education, date of birth, and work history. The unmentionables include past criminal records or issues with drugs and alcohol that may have caused your disability. It is best to be honest and precise about your medical premise and the negative impact it has brought to your daily routine – social aspect included. However, it is desirable that you use the “Yes, but” method where needed instead of saying you can’t do this and that, they’ll prefer to hear that you are indeed able to move around, but only to a certain extent.
After the discussion, the vocational expert will say whether or not there is a job available given your physical limitations. This is going to be based on your past jobs and the hypotheticals presented by the judge (e.g. Can the applicant still do the work he used to do?) Keep an open ear to questions like “Do you cook your meals?” because if your answer was yes, then this could give them an idea and assign you to a cooking job available.
Waiting for the Notice of Decision
You will have to wait six to eight more weeks to get a Notice of Decision. It will include your medical records, the hearing’s testimonies, and doctors’ opinions. If the hypothetical portion is blank on any work available, then it means that you have successfully won your case.
Working with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in regards to the SSD process can not only help to ensure that you are presenting the best possible case to the judge, but can also help to put many of your concerns at ease by making sure you are prepared as possible
At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients with their SSD cases and provide valuable information for those who are interested in filing appeals from their initial denial. We are happy to assist clients in filing their reconsideration claims after the Social Security Administration issues their initial denial. If you are looking to file your initial SSD case claim, you can download our guide here and file your application online here.
If you need assistance with your SSD reconsideration case, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. We do not charge an up-front fee for social security legal representation. Click here for more information about social security disability and how Seff & Capizzi can help.