At a Social Security disability hearing, you get the opportunity to plead the merits of your case in front of a judge, the goal being to reverse the Social Security Administrations’ (SSA) initial decision to deny your claim. The hearing stage offers the highest approval rate of any part of the disability application and appeals process.
Before you attend your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) hearing, there are several important things you need to do.
Make Sure Your Medical Records Are Up to Date
Your Medical Records Form Your Strongest Evidence
Your medical records are the most important piece of evidence you have at your disability hearing. Without them, you will face great difficulty winning benefits. Accordingly, your records should be up to date, reflecting your health at the time of your hearing, not six months or a year before it.
The SSA Is Not Required to Help You Gather Records
Although the SSA is required to help you gather your records at the initial claims review stage, it is not required to do so at the hearing stage. The chances are it will not. Once your case gets transferred to the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), it is up to you (and your attorney) to make sure it stays up to date.
Otherwise, your file is likely to sit on the shelf until shortly before your hearing when the judge starts reviewing it. At that time, it is not in your best interest for your file to be incomplete or not up to date.
Request Copies of Your Most Recent Medical Records
You should request current copies of your medical records as soon as you receive the notification of your hearing date. You will receive this notification at least 75 days before your hearing date, giving you plenty of time to take care of what you need to.
A little tip to save you time and money: Before requesting your medical records, review the ones already in your file. Request only the records covering the dates beyond those in your current file. This way, you avoid duplication, you get your records faster, and your cost to obtain them is lower.
Ask Your Doctor to Write a Personal Statement
In a Social Security disability hearing, your doctor’s opinion carries a lot of weight. By writing a statement explaining their opinion on your disability, your doctor can help you win your claim.
This statement should be up to date, so ask for it after you receive notice of your hearing date, not before. Ideally, your doctor should include in their statement information about your functional limitations that impact your ability to work—for instance, an inability to stand or sit for long periods, lack of mobility, limits on how much you can lift, or difficulty concentrating or working with people.
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
As an alternative or in addition to a personal statement, you might want to ask your doctor to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. The RFC test is an objective measure of your functional limitations. The SSA often requires applicants to undergo this test with a doctor of their choosing, but you can strengthen your claim by completing the same exam with your own doctor.
If You Have Not Done So Already, Hire an Attorney
A Social Security disability hearing is a face-to-face event in front of a judge. In that way, it is no different from a civil or criminal trial. You will be standing in front of a judge, pleading the merits of your case, answering questions fired at you by the SSA’s witnesses (usually a medical expert and a vocational expert). Do you really want to do this on your own without professional representation?
A Lawyer Can Help You Prepare
A disability lawyer can help you prepare for your hearing by organizing your case and letting you know what questions to expect and how to answer them. Your attorney will also be by your side at the hearing itself to advocate on your behalf and steer the proceedings.
Considering that you do not have to pay out of pocket for a Social Security lawyer and that they only get paid once you win your claim, there is no good reason not to have one on your side when you attend your hearing.
To Schedule a Free Case Evaluation With a Social Security Disability Attorney, Call the Disability Advantage Group, at 865-566-0800
At the Disability Advantage Group, our attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients win the disability benefits they deserve. Before your hearing for SSDI benefits, consider speaking with one of our dedicated lawyers. We can answer all your questions and provide guidance. To take to a lawyer, call us at 865-566-0800.