As we have discussed in this blog before, most initial applications for Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are denied. Once rejected, applicants have the right to appeal and make their case that they deserve SSD or SSI benefits due to a disability that prevents them from supporting themselves financially.
After filing an appeal with the Social Security Administration, the applicant’s case goes before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for a hearing. Readers who have never gone though one of these hearings naturally will wonder what goes on at these hearings, and how they would get to argue their side.
Applicants have the right to have an attorney represent them. Prior to the hearing, the attorney will examine your case and consider what new evidence to submit. This evidence must be submitted to the ALJ as soon as possible, before requesting the appeal hearing if that is a possibility.
The hearing itself is informal compared with most judicial proceedings, but it is recorded. The ALJ will explain the issues in the case, then hear any witnesses you bring to the hearing, such as a doctor who is an expert in your type of disability. The ALJ may request that other witnesses also come to the hearing for questioning. All witnesses are under oath while giving testimony.
Later, the ALJ will study the evidence and issue a written decision, which is sent to you and your attorney. If the ALJ dismisses the appeal, it is possible to appeal again, this time to the Social Security Appeals Council, and beyond that to federal court, in a suit against SSA.