It can take several months, or even a year or more, to get an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. So, you will want to make the most of it when it arrives.
- Hire a Social Security disability law team
- Get the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) file on you
- Review medical evidence
- Request a support statement from a doctor
Here are some steps you should take to prepare for a disability hearing in front of a judge.
Hire an Attorney Who Understands the Hearing Process
The Social Security Administration judges claims in a unique and esoteric manner. For someone new to dealing with the SSA, such as a first-time applicant, the process can seem complex and overwhelming, and the SSA’s decisions can seem arbitrary.
Fortunately, you have the right to be represented by an attorney at your ALJ hearing. Availing yourself of this option is a smart move. A Social Security disability attorney has fought cases in front of ALJs before and is familiar with the process. Moreover, not all judges respond to the same arguments in the same way. Based on the judge you are assigned and your attorney’s knowledge of and experience with that judge, your lawyer can tailor your case to appeal to him or her.
Request Your Case File From the Social Security Administration
You have the right to request a copy of your entire disability case file from the SSA before your hearing. This file provides you and especially your attorney with valuable information to review before your hearing.
It is possible, for instance, that your initial application or first appeal was missing valuable evidence that would have reflected favorably on your claim. In SSDI applications, the details matter. The claims examiner who denied your application or appeal might have glossed over or misinterpreted a critical piece of documentation.
These kinds of issues frequently occur in Social Security disability cases, but if you do not review your case file and have your attorney look it over, you might miss them.
Even if the claims examiner did not make a mistake and your file features no missing information, it is still a good source of information to help you and your attorney prepare a winning argument for the ALJ.
Make Sure Your Medical Evidence is Up to Date
The SSA is required to notify you of your hearing date at least 75 days ahead of time. Once you receive notice of your hearing date, you should contact your doctor and any specialists from whom you have received treatment and request up-to-date medical records. With 75 days to do so, you should not have any issues with this.
Having current medical records is critical, as it obviates the possible argument from the SSA that the circumstances of your condition have changed between the time you submitted your initial application and now.
Getting up-to-date medical records is one of the ways how to prepare for a disability hearing to win Social Security or SSI benefits. Make a copy for yourself and forward the original texts to the hearing office. Chances are, the ALJ will review all documents in your file plus any new ones you submit in advance of your hearing.
Ask Your Doctor to Write a Supportive Statement
A personal statement from your doctor offers a powerful piece of evidence detailing how your condition affects you on a daily basis. This statement, called a medical source statement, provides such information as the type of work you can and cannot do as well as the degree to which your condition impacts your ability to carry out activities of daily living.
If you think it will make it easier on your doctor, you can provide him or her with a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form from the SSA, which offers a template onto which he or she can fill out the information requested.
You also might consider supplementing your doctor’s statement with additional letters from others who spend significant time with you, such as your former co-workers and your friends.
For Help Preparing for Your Social Security Disability Hearing, Call the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, at 866-628-8179 for a Free Case Evaluation
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, can help you have a successful Social Security Disability hearing. We want to give you the best chance of winning the benefits you deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call our office today at 866-628-8179.