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What to Expect at an ALJ Hearing.

Your hearing has finally been scheduled!

What should you expect and how to prepare?

It has probably been close to one year (the average wait time for hearing in 2013 is 378 day) since you filed your appeal for a hearing with Social Security.  Now that the wait is over, how are you going to prepare for a final decision?  Clearly Social Security has made it nearly impossible to approve your claim due to their strict disability approval policy.  Hopefully this information will get you prepared for your hearing.

An Administrative Law Judge or ALJ is interested in understanding your side of the story.  The initial decisions were based off of medical findings to determine your eligibility, and now the ALJ wants to hear it from you.  If you’re feeling nervous that’s perfectly normal as this could be your last chance to prove your case.  Remember the ALJ already has the material evidence to your case and needs to understand your side of the story.  The best you can do is be prepared for different questions.

By working with Hill and Ponton, you will be at a great advantage by understanding each question prior to the hearing.  Your case manager and attorney have been working simultaneously in preparing your case through adjudication.  He or she will be able to guide you through the questions to become better prepared.  The judge may ask about your education, past jobs, daily activities, physical, and mental limitations that prevent you from working.  Answering questions truthfully will help the judge understand you are disabled and unable to work, therefore approving your claim for benefits.

Most people get the wrong idea of how an administrative hearing works.  We see on television shows how dramatic they make it and think yours will be the same way.  This is incorrect. A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is a closed hearing, which means there is no one there who does not have a say in your claim.  The hearing may only take 20 minutes and should never last more than an hour.  Most likely you’ll be in a small conference room, and you’ll be sitting together at a table.  It will be you, your Hill and Ponton attorney, the judge, an assistant to the judge, and either a vocational expert or a medical expert or sometimes both. Your disability story must come directly from you. Relax, be yourself, and answer the questions truthfully.

For Questions About Your Disability Claim... Contact Us

by Matthew Hill
October 21, 2013

I already have Social Security disability benefits. Can Social Security ever take them away?

When you are awarded Social Security disability benefits, a finding is made that you are entitled only at the time the benefits are awarded. There is never a finding that the disability is permanent. The Social Security Administration is continually reviewing awards of disability to terminate benefits in cases where the claimant no longer qualifies.

It is important that you understand how this review process works.

How often will a review of entitlement to benefits occur?

After you win your benefits, the SSA will periodically review your claim to make sure that you are still disabled. Congress has mandated that no matter what kind of disability that you have the SSA must review your entitlement to benefits. How often they review your benefits depends on the severity of your disability and the likelihood that you will recover. The SSA has three different groupings for reviews:

1. If medical improvement is “expected,” your case normally will be reviewed within six to 18 months.

2. If medical improvement is “possible,” your case normally will be reviewed no sooner than three years.

3. If medical improvement is “not expected,” your case normally will be reviewed no sooner than seven years.

To find out when your claim is going to be reviewed, you should look on your award certificate. Most award certificates give your review date. If there is no review date in your award certificate, you must try and guess which of the 3 groupings listed above best describes your condition.

What happens in the review process?

The SSA initiates the review process by sending you a letter with questions about your condition. Based on your answers the SSA will either write back and say that there is no need for a review or say that a full medical review is called for.

If your claim is going to be reviewed, the SSA will ask you to come into the local branch for an interview. In the interview they will ask you for a copy of your current medical file, any information on new hospital stays, and, if you worked since you became disabled, the dates and types of jobs you did. The SSA will send your records to a medical examiner to go over your files and look for signs of improvement. The SSA bases their decision on the medical information that is collected from your doctors.

What are the reasons that SSA will stop benefits?

There are two reasons that SSA will stop paying benefits. The first reason is if you are working at what they feel is a “sustainable” level. In financial terms this means earning $840 or more per month for the year 2006. The other major reason that the SSA will stop your benefits is if they feel your condition has improved enough for you to work.

For Questions About Your Disability Claim... Contact Us

by Matthew Hill
October 25, 2008

5 Important Things to Remember When Filing for Social Security Benefits

1. File right away.

Some types of Social Security benefits only start a month after you file for them. By waiting to file you may be losing benefits to which you are entitled.

2. Always appeal a rejected claim.

You should always appeal through the hearing level, at least. Also if you are denied by a judge then you should file a new claim. If you are disabled do not stop fighting untll you get your benefits.

3. Be sure to get examined by your doctors.

If you have your own doctors get evidence from them to support your claim. Never go to the doctors appointed by Social Security if you do not need to. Your doctors will be more familiar with you and your condition.

The law requires that the Social Security office try to get evidence from your doctors before they send you to their doctors.

4. Fill out the application carefully.

Often people do not take the time to completely fill out the forms or to list all the problems they have, including psychological problems. Social Security needs to know about all of your problems in order to make a fair decision on your case.

5. The prior work form is very important.

This is one of the most important forms that you will complete. Remember, in determining whether or not your are disabled, Social Security is going to first decide whether or not your can do your old jobs. That means all of the jobs that you have performed for 6 months or more in the last 15 years. This is why it is so important that they know all of the difficult parts of your past work, especially the heaviest weights that your had to lift or carry, and the extremes of having to walk or be on your feet. Please take your time and really think about the demands on your prior jobs, and make sure that they are clearly listed in the form.

For Questions About Your Disability Claim... Contact Us

by Matthew Hill
October 25, 2008

Can I get Social Security benefits for my family?

If you are found disabled, and entitled to regular disability benefits and you have minor children, in most cases they will be entitled to a benefit as well.

In order to be entitled to a benefit, your children have to be 18 years of age, or under, not married, and not yet graduated from high school.

If any of your children are under 16, and if your spouse, doesn’t work, or earns under a certain amount of money, your spouse may also be entitled to a benefit.

The SSA generally allows a benefit equal to 50% of your benefit for your family.

For Questions About Your Disability Claim... Contact Us

by Matthew Hill
October 25, 2008

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