The process of applying for and appealing denials of Social Security disability benefits can be very discouraging and intimidating. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers long-term disability benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, includes several layers of administrative review in its qualification process.
The level which may be the most important is the SSDI hearing, because that is often the last place new evidence may be introduced during a disability claim. Applicants involved in a Sandy Springs SSDI hearing often work with an experienced Social Security advocate for the disabled to ensure that they properly present all available evidence and make the most effective arguments to support their claim.
Steps Leading up to an SSDI Hearing
Before an SSDI hearing in Sandy Springs, you would have filed an application for SSDI benefits online or through an interview either on the phone or in person with the SSA. Following this, the agency would have denied your claim.
At that point, you generally would have sought a reconsideration by the agency, and that would have been denied also. So, then you would file a request for an SSDI hearing, where the case would be heard by an administrative law judge (ALJ) rather than an SSA staff member.
The Procedures at an SSDI Hearing
Hearings before an administrative law judge are not as formal as federal court proceedings, although you and any witnesses present are sworn in before answering questions from the judge. Applicants are often advised to wear normal attire, rather than formal business attire, so long as their clothing shows proper respect for the proceedings.
The location of SSDI hearings in Sandy Springs varies depending on your location. It may be in the SSA hearing office, or it could be held in a temporary location such as a hotel conference room. Sandy Springs is located in SSA Region 4, which is headquartered in Atlanta. SSA has Hearing Offices in downtown Atlanta and in Alpharetta, so an SSDI hearing for Sandy Springs residents would likely be scheduled in one of these offices.
In a typical SSDI administrative hearing, a vocational expert would be on hand to give an opinion as the types of work that could be done by someone with your level of disability. The judge usually asks questions about the applicant’s former employment and asks the vocational expert questions about potential employment.
If the judge does not ask questions, you may be invited to make a statement. This gives you an opportunity to explain how your disability limitations prevent you from maintaining gainful employment. The hearing will typically be brief, so it is important to take advantage of available opportunities to make the case for why disability benefits should be paid.
After an SSDI Hearing
It may take some time for the judge to make a decision, have it formally written up, and issue final approval. If the decision is a denial, your file will often be kept at the Office of Hearing Operations in case an appeal is filed.
If the administrative law judge approves a claim, the SSA would check to ensure you have not been working too much to continue to qualify for benefits. Assuming you have not, a Notice of Award Letter would be sent.
This Letter may contain a fully favorable or partially favorable decision. For instance, if the judge has disagreed with the date you claim as the onset of the disability, the date from which payments are calculated may be adjusted. This would be an example of a partially favorable decision.
Getting Help with SSDI Hearings in Sandy Springs
Applicants for disability benefits who will have their case heard before an administrative law judge should ensure that they have all available evidence ready to present and a statement prepared, as well as planned answers to anticipated questions. For help with preparing for a Sandy Springs SSDI hearing, consult with an experienced Social Security disability attorney on our team today.