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What happens at an SSDI hearing?

We have written in other posts about the Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI claims and appeals process. The SSD appeals process includes several steps, including the initiating request for reconsideration. By far, the most important step is the hearing before an administrative law judge. In this post, we will focus on what happens in one of these hearings.

An appeals hearing is the presentation of written evidence and oral testimony to a hearing officer, called an administrative law judge or ALJ, who has been specially trained to hear and resolve cases involving the denial of an application for disability benefits. A hearing must be requested in writing, either online or by mailing in the necessary forms. The hearing will usually be scheduled to occur in a place not less than 75 miles of the applicant's home. If the applicant is unable to travel, the hearing may take place via video teleconferencing.

The ALJ presides at the hearing. The applicant and his or her representative, if they have one, will have the opportunity to directly address the ALJ and explain the reasons why the applicant should be considered unable to work. The applicant may also call other witnesses, such as treating physicians, employer representatives, physical therapists and the like.

If any witnesses are called by the ALJ, such as a physician who conducted a residual functional capacity exam, the applicant, their attorney or other representative is entitled to cross-examine these witnesses. Any supplemental medical information that was not part of the original application, such as laboratory texts, X-rays and MRI scans, can be submitted at the hearing. The hearing is informal, but all witnesses must take an oath to tell the truth, and the hearing will be recorded.

The ALJ will issue a written decision after reviewing the original claim file and the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing. Even though a disability appeal hearing is informal, the assistance of a lawyer who is experienced in handling disability claims could be a beneficial resource for an applicant that is seeking the appeal a denied application for disability benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "What You Need to Know to Request a Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge," accessed on July 24, 2016

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