If your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) benefits was denied, you may still appeal the decision through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Jackson disability lawyer Michael Hartup has extensive experience helping disabled Tennessee residents successfully appeal denied SSD claims. If you live in the greater Jackson, TN, area and believe your application for SSD benefits was wrongfully denied, please call The Law Offices of Michael Hartup today at 731-513-5284 or contact us online for a free consultation.
What is an Administrative Hearing?
The first step in the SSD appeals process is to file for reconsideration. You generally have 60 days from the denial to file your appeal, at which time the SSA will reconsider their decision by conducting a new review and taking any new evidence that supports your claim into account. Often, claims are still denied after reconsideration and applicants are left to move onto the next step in the appeals process: an administrative hearing.
Administrative hearings give Social Security Disability applicants who have been denied the opportunity to take their case in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will review their claim and make a new decision. During an administrative hearing, you’ll be able to present new evidence, clarify the details of your claim, and offer expert testimony.
Although you are not required to work with an attorney during the appeals process, seeking the help of a knowledgeable disability lawyer can improve your odds of a successful appeal.
How to Prepare for an Administrative Hearing
Administrative hearings are the second step in the appeals process for SSD benefits, giving denied applicants the opportunity to testify before a judge regarding their medical conditions and the limitations that those conditions have placed on their ability to work and earn income. If you choose to appeal your denial after the reconsideration step, the SSA will provide you with 75 days advance notice of your administrative hearing.
Successfully appealing a denied SSD claim requires a lot of preparation, so it’s a good idea to use this time to thoroughly review your application and case file. If you’ve chosen to have a qualified disability lawyer represent you during the appeals process, they can help you prepare. This may involve reviewing your claim and determining if any information is missing, as well as identify gaps that need to be filled in order to give your claim a better chance of success.
The advanced notice before your administrative hearing gives you and your lawyer time to acquire up-to-date medical records and seek any additional documentation that might support your claim. The SSA will also accept written statements from friends, family, and employers who are familiar with your disability. All written witness statements must be submitted to the hearing office before the date of your hearing.
What to Expect at an Administrative Hearing
Unlike other formal hearings, an SSD administrative hearing is more casual and usually held in a conference room setting as opposed to a traditional courtroom. You can also attend the hearing by video conference if you’re not able to make it in-person due to special medical or travel issues. If you choose to have a disability lawyer represent you during the appeals process, they can accompany you to the hearing and present your argument to the ALJ. Your attorney can also question witnesses during the hearing and submit supporting evidence on your behalf.
During the administrative hearing, you’ll be required to answer extremely detailed questions about your daily activities, educational background, and employment history. This may seem intimidating at first, but it will help the ALJ better understand the ways in which your disability impacts your life. Witnesses who have been called to testify will be questioned in detail about your disability and the effects it has on your ability to work.
You will not receive a decision on the same day as your hearing, as the ALJ will need to review all the evidence and testimony before coming to a decision. After a decision has been made, the judge will send you a copy of the decision by letter. If you are using a lawyer during the appeals process, they will also be sent a copy of the decision.
What to Do If Your Claim is Denied After Your Hearing
If your claim is denied after the administrative hearing, there are still steps you can take to you further appeal the decision and get the SSD benefits you need. Appeals at this stage are sent to The Social Security Appeals Council, who will independently review the ALJ’s decision and either rule definitively on your claim or send it back to the ALJ for another review. If the Appeals Council denies your request, you still have the option to appeal for a federal court review.
A federal court review allows the applicant to file a civil lawsuit in order to receive benefits and is the last step in the appeals process. At this stage, it is strongly recommended to work with a qualified disability lawyer who is familiar with the heavy burdens and preparation that a civil suit requires.
How a Knowledgeable Disability Attorney Can Help
Applicants are allowed to represent themselves at administrative hearings, but seeking the help of experienced lawyers who specialize in disability claims can make the appeals process less stressful and increase your odds of success.
Your lawyer can guide you through the administrative hearing, prepare you for questioning, gather medical records, submit additional evidence on your behalf, and represent you in front of the ALJ. They can also clarify information presented in earlier filings and help further your case before the Social Security Appeals Council if your appeal is denied at the administrative hearing level.
Disability lawyers have the experience and detailed knowledge of the SSD appeals processes that you need to present your case to an administrative law judge, and in federal court if necessary. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, SSD applicants are twice as likely to be approved for benefits if they obtain legal representation.
Contact an Experienced Disability Lawyer Today
Too often, disabled individuals who would otherwise qualify for benefits are denied due to missing documentation, incomplete medical records, or other insufficient supporting evidence — all of which could be rectified by your disability lawyer during an administrative hearing.
Social Security regulations guarantee your right to be represented throughout the appeals process so you can gather the evidence necessary to prove your claim. A qualified disability lawyer can help you navigate the complex SSD claims and appeals process and get you the benefits you deserve.
Michael Hartup is an experienced disability lawyer who has devoted his entire practice to guiding disabled individuals from Tennessee through the complicated process of getting SSD benefits. If you need assistance applying for SSD benefits or appealing a denied claim, please call our Jackson, Tennessee, office at 731-513-5282 or contact us online to get started now.