In a Social Security disability hearing, an administrative law judge determines whether an applicant is qualified to receive disability benefits. Although the decision of the administrative law judge may be appealed, the judge’s factual findings will be accorded deference in future appeals. This means that the factual record of what happens at a Social Security disability hearing is extremely important.
However, a single applicant’s file may be a virtual encyclopedia of medical records, statements, work records, and other documents. Even if the judge has the ability to review every page, it may be difficult for them or anyone else to discern which pieces of evidence are the most important to a case.
For that reason, it can be very helpful to provide the judge with a prehearing brief presenting an explanation of why the applicant should be entitled to benefits and the evidence most supportive of the claim. Writing a prehearing brief for an Alpharetta Social Security disability hearing is a task usually assigned to an attorney with experience preparing persuasive written documents for legal proceedings. As this brief can play an important role in your SSDI hearing, it is important to work with an experienced professional.
General Factors to Keep in Mind about a Prehearing Brief
It is wise to prepare a prehearing brief far enough in advance of the Social Security disability hearing so that it can be part of the applicant’s file at the time the judge begins to review it. After all, even the most well-crafted brief would fail to fulfill its intended purpose if the judge never reads it.
It is also important to note that the word “brief” can be somewhat deceiving. While it is wise to state matters in a clear and concise manner, there are many components to be included. As such, while a brief should contain material that is to the point, it will not necessarily be short in length.
The prehearing brief should include identifying information about the applicant and information about the history of their case. For instance, the brief should include the date the disability began as well as the date of the initial application for benefits. In addition, it is often useful to introduce the situation with a few lines that explain the applicant’s work history, the onset of the disability, and the subsequent effects.
Presentation of Medical Evidence
Medical evidence is critical to the outcome of a Social Security disability hearing, but that often means there is a great deal of information that must be included as part of that evidence. If not organized properly, medical records may serve to obscure rather than highlight the most important features of the claim for benefits.
The prehearing brief should summarize all relevant medical evidence, describe important medical diagnoses, and emphasize favorable statements. It can be helpful to quote from a doctor’s treatment plan, notes, or statements, and then cite to the particular exhibit containing the full document. If the documents are optimally organized, that can make it easier for the judge to find the records most advantageous to the applicant’s case.
The Five Steps of the Sequential Evaluation
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a sequential evaluation process with five steps when determining whether an applicant qualifies to receive disability benefits. Accordingly, it is often a good idea to specifically address each of the five steps in the prehearing brief, although if a particular step presents no major issues, the discussion of that step may be kept to a minimum.
Depending on the situation, it may be important to focus more on one step than on others. For instance, if an applicant’s conditions align with one of the SSA’s listed medical conditions, information related to this correlation should be highlighted. Likewise, if an applicant has work extensive experience in the one field and is unable to return to that field, then step four should be given substantial attention in the brief.
Assistance with Writing a Prehearing Brief for an Alpharetta Social Security Disability Hearing
Though less formal than a courtroom trial, a Social Security disability hearing is a legal proceeding with important consequences. It is advisable for anyone in Alpharetta who is preparing for an SSDI hearing to learn as much as possible about the process, the judge involved, and the procedures for presenting their case in a persuasive manner.
Writing a prehearing brief for an Alpharetta Social Security disability hearing is a good idea, but it can be intimidating when undertaken for the first time. A knowledgeable attorney familiar with the SSA sequential evaluation steps could assist in preparation of a prehearing brief. For personalized assistance with your case, call our firm today to speak with our intake team.