Tips When Requesting a Disability Hearing
It is not uncommon for applicants to have their initial Social Security disability claim denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can improve your chances of having the claim approved by hiring an experienced disability attorney. If you wait until the appeals process to hire an attorney, you increase your chances of being approved in this situation too. If the claim is denied, you can request an appeal hearing with the SSA. Below, you will find some tips to follow when requesting a disability hearing in Alabama.
When and Why are Disability Appeals Filed?
The first chance you have to file an appeal is when you file a request for reconsideration. This means that your initial claim was denied, and you want the SSA to reconsider your case. Your next option to file an appeal comes when the reconsideration is denied by the SSA. On average, more than 80 percent of reconsiderations are denied each year. If the reconsideration is denied, you can then request a hearing. This is what’s known as a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.
Deadline to File an Appeal
There is a deadline you must follow when filing an appeal after the reconsideration has been denied. You have 60 days to file an appeal with the SSA and are given an additional five days for mailing the paperwork. Even though you have 65 days, with mailing time, to file an appeal you should do so as soon as possible. Don’t wait two weeks before filing. File an appeal as soon as you can after your reconsideration is denied.
Steps for Submitting an Appeal
If you need to submit an appeal for disability benefits, or request a hearing, you can do so by yourself or with the help of an attorney. If you filed the appeal on paper, make sure you keep copies of every single document used in the appeal. The request for a hearing should be submitted to the same SSA office where your initial claim and reconsideration appeals were filed. Even if you file the appeal online, be sure to print a copy of the appeal for your records.
After the request for a hearing has been filed, either you or your attorney should contact the SSA office where the request was filed to ask for confirmation. This is an important part of the request process and helps you understand where your hearing process is headed. If the SSA cannot confirm receipt of the hearing request, you will need to submit it again.
Do not get discouraged with the process of your hearing. It can take weeks, months, and even years to get a disability hearing scheduled. Consider making a call to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review once every few months to check on the status of your case and whether or not a hearing will be scheduled soon. For the most part, the only response you will hear from the office is that “the file has yet to be assigned.”
What Happens After You Request a Hearing?
So, what happens after you submit a request for a hearing? The person who filed the request, the claimant, will usually receive written acknowledgement from the SSA. Acknowledgement of the hearing request does not get issued until the request you filed has been forwarded from the SSA office where it was filed. When you receive acknowledgement, it means the SSA has received the request and that a hearing is now pending.
Preparing for a Hearing
1. Know the deadline. Your request for a hearing has to be filed no later than 60 days after the reconsideration denial. This doesn’t mean you should sit on the paperwork and wait a month to get started. Start the process immediately to leave yourself plenty of buffer time.
2. Connect with your attorney or representative. Your appeal can be filed by you, your attorney, or another representative.
3. Prepare the paperwork. When you file the request, keep copies of everything you submit. Mail does get lost and documents do get misfiled, so you want a backup in case that happens.
Submitting and Following Up
4. Submit the paperwork online. If you file your claim yourself, you can submit online or via mail. If you have a representative working on your behalf, they will need to file online. Using the online option eliminates the risk of your paperwork getting lost in the mail.
5. Follow up to see if the request was received. Due to the backlog of applications and appeal requests, some requests get lost or fall by the wayside. Checking with the office regularly allows you to resubmit if this happens.
6. Do damage control if the request was not received. If your application was not received, make a copy of your request and send it in immediately.
7. Plan your next follow-up call. If your application was received, plan on calling back every three months to find out if the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review has received the file from the Social Security office.
Preparing for Your Hearing
8. If applicable, review the exhibit list. After your request has been submitted, you and your attorney should immediately begin preparing for your hearing. Some hearing offices send claimants an exhibit list, which includes information from your hearing file.
9. Request a copy of your file. You should request a copy of your file immediately. If you wait too long, the information it contains is likely to be very helpful to you as you prepare for your hearing. Your attorney can help you review the information it contains and understand how each piece of evidence is significant. The information in your file can help your attorney create a stronger case for your hearing.
10. Update your medical records. Before your hearing, make sure that you have all of your latest medical records for use in your hearing. You may need to get in contact with care providers to do this, so do it as quickly as possible to avoid delays.
11. Have medical records sent to the hearing office. For this information to be considered in your hearing, you will need to submit it to the hearing office promptly. Before doing so, make copies of everything. Again, should your paperwork get lost, you do not want to have to go back to your care providers and request the information again.
12. Ensure you have supporting statements from medical care providers. Listen to your attorney regarding any other documentation you may need. It is often helpful to have supporting statements from your treating physicians for your hearing. Judges give significant weight to input from doctors, and these statements may strengthen your case considerably.
Be sure to obtain a copy of your file prior to the hearing. It is best to have an attorney represent you so they can review the file and look for any inconsistencies with your situation. Once the hearing has been scheduled, submit medical evidence updates from your doctors to the hearing office. Make sure these documents are submitted prior to the date of the hearing. All records you submit to the hearing office should be copied and kept in a safe place, so you always have the information at your hands.
Filing a Request for a Disability Hearing? Call an Experienced Attorney
Are you ready to file a request for a disability hearing? Has your initial claim and reconsideration both been denied by the SSA? It’s time to speak to an experienced disability attorney about your case. Working with an attorney during the appeal process can be incredibly advantageous. The disability system can be complex and confusing, and many applicants give up just before they are successful. Your attorney can help you avoid common mistakes, provide the proper documentation, and navigate these steps with minimal stress and confusion. Call the office of The Dansby Law Firm, P.C. at 1-877-834-7001 to schedule a free consultation.