If you have been trying to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) can provide the best opportunity to achieve success in your claim. The role of an Administrative Law Judge at an Atlanta SSDI hearing is different than that of Social Security Administration (SSA) staff members who review a claim initially or on reconsideration. For this reason, learning more about the role of the ALJ can help you lay the groundwork for an advantageous hearing.
The ALJs who hear SSDI cases work for the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) and play no part in the original review of a disability claim or during the SSA’s reconsideration thereof.
The ALJ is not bound by the earlier decisions and does not even have to apply the same standards as the SSA staff members who reviewed the case earlier. In other words, they would be approaching the case from a fresh perspective. Sometimes this is referred to as “de novo” review because the judge is looking at the case with a fresh perspective and is not bound by previous determinations.
An ALJ is required to review information about the claimant’s work history and medical records as well as the SSA’s reasons for denying benefits before the hearing takes place. It is crucial to submit any additional evidence to the judge well in advance of the hearing to allow time for review. The ALJ may form an opinion based on the case files and will look to the hearing to confirm or deny that assessment.
The ALJ may start an SSDI hearing by verbally summarizing the case and the points under contention. Then, they will ask questions to clarify any unclear circumstances. Usually, the ALJ will question the claimant and any summoned witnesses such as vocational or medical experts. In addition to questioning, the judge will allow an applicant or their attorney to make a statement in support of the claim.
Although the Administrative Law Judge asks questions as a critical part of an SSDI hearing, they also allow the claimant to ask expert witnesses questions of their own. Often, questioning or cross-examination is performed by a hearing claims advocate.
Try not to view the judge as an adversary but as more of an investigator trying to ascertain the truth. Providing clear and convincing evidence before the hearing can make the judge’s job considerably easier and help facilitate a favorable outcome.
An ALJ may permit new evidence to be presented at the hearing, but you are generally expected to submit evidence at least five business days before the hearing. To learn more about the role of an Administrative Law Judge at an Atlanta SSDI hearing, talk to an experienced lawyer from our firm today.