When claimants have been denied Social Security Disability benefits at the reconsideration level and proceed to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing, preparation os key. Since so much is riding on the ALJ decision, it’s vital for claimants to review their case files and gather updated medical records, expert statements, and additional evidence that may help sway the judge.
What Happens at a Disability Hearing?
The disability hearing is an informal proceeding before an administrative law judge to determine the validity of an SSDI claim. During the hearing, the judge reviews the case file and may question claimants and witnesses. Those seeking appeals are permitted to bring witnesses of their own to speak on their behalf. The judge may also request testimony from additional witnesses including vocational experts or health care professionals. Claimants or their representatives are permitted to question witnesses during the disability hearing. They may also submit any new or supplementary evidence to support their claims at the hearing.
Gathering Updated Medical Records
Submitting up-to-date medical records is fundamental when seeking to reverse an SSDI denial. When deciding SSDI appeals, administrative law judges review all the previously submitted evidence, including applicants’ medical records. Providing recent records may help claimants fill in any blanks that may have contributed to the denial of their initial applications. Doing so can also demonstrate how their condition has continued or progressed.
Obtaining Statements from Experts and Witnesses
Almost as important as the medical records tracking SSDI applicants’ diagnoses and treatments are opinions from experts and statements from family, friends, and former employers. Even if claimants have previously obtained and submitted a residual functional capacity (RFC) report, they should ask their physicians for an updated one. These formal statements detail impairments resulting from people’s disabling conditions, as well as the types of tasks and activities they can still perform given their physical or mental limitations.
Reviewing Claim Details
Since claimants may be asked questions during disability hearings, they should review the details of their claims. A thorough review of the information contained in the original claim can help claimants be prepared to answer questions accurately. When preparing for ALJ hearings, disability applicants and their social security disability representatives should also review the reason(s) the initial claim was denied so concerns can be addressed and disability can be established.