In many Social Security disability cases, a denied application for benefits is not the end of the road; it is simply part of the path to getting benefits. When an application is denied, a “reconsideration” appeal is filed. If this appeal is also denied, then a request for a hearing is filed. It is at the hearing stage that many individuals are finally awarded Social Security disability benefits.
For most cases, the Social Security hearing stage is the final step in Social Security disability process. Much of the work involved in the Social Security hearing process is done prior to the actual hearing. Because of this, knowing what to expect at these hearings and being prepared is crucial.
- Know What is in Your Social Security File
By the time you reach the hearing stage of the process, your Social Security disability case file is likely hundreds, if not thousands, of pages long. Your file contains everything from medical records to details relating to past employment. The Administrative Law Judge who presides over your hearing will have reviewed your file before your hearing, so you need to review your file as well.
- Gather Updated Medical Records
One of the most important steps in the hearing process is to provide Social Security with updated medical records prior to your hearing. Social Security requests medical records after the application and reconsideration appeal are filed. But, what if, after Social Security requests medical records, you undergo a surgery, get a new diagnosis, or start seeing a new doctor? These medical records need to be added to your file prior to the hearing so that they can be considered.
- Update Your Social Security File
Not updating your Social Security file prior to a hearing is one of the most common hearing mistakes we see. Identifying what might be missing from your Social Security file is important. For example, on review, you might find that your file does not contain medical records from a certain doctor. If those medical records are relevant to your claim, they need to be requested and provided to Social Security prior to your hearing. You do not want the Judge to make a decision without having the opportunity to review all important records and documents.
- Review Your Claim and Hearing Testimony
In the weeks and days leading up to your hearing, review your work history, medical treatment, and limitations. Think about the specific symptoms that are keeping you out of work and about the difficulties you are having with tasks at home, such as difficulties preparing food, doing yardwork, or cleaning. These subjects are bound to come up at the hearing, and it is helpful to think and talk about them prior to the hearing. Also, your assigned Judge can ask you about your work history going back fifteen years from your alleged date of disability. You should refamiliarize yourself with these details so that you are prepared for work-related questions are your hearing. There might also be certain Social Security regulations that apply to your particular case. Knowing these regulations can help focus your preparation.
- Hire an Attorney
The Social Security disability process, including the hearing stage, can be stressful, confusing, and overwhelming at times. An attorney who has experience handling Social Security disability claims will work to help you through the process. Your attorney will not only be there for you prior to your hearing but also during and after the hearing. Prior to a hearing, we conduct a detailed review of each file, prepare a letter brief to the assigned Judge, and discuss the file and hearing process, in detail, with our clients.