Social Security disability benefits are available to disabled individuals who cannot work, however, the majority of initial claims are denied. The appeals process can be overwhelming and frustrating and could involve attending disability hearings. Although these hearings are relatively informal, there are rules and deadlines that, if not followed, could lead to the denial of benefits. The highly skilled disability lawyers at Nikolaus & Hohenadel can protect your rights.
We regularly represent clients at disability hearings throughout Central Pennsylvania. Our legal team is highly regarded for being dedicated advocates of the disabled and providing our clients with powerful representation and dependable service. When you become our client, we will make sure you are treated fairly and help you obtain the benefits you deserve.
An Overview of Disability Hearings Appeals
Disability benefits claims can be denied for a number of reasons. At times, a Social Security Administration (SSA) disability examiner may determine that the medical condition is not severe enough to prevent the applicant from working. Additionally, technical issues such as errors in the application and missing information or documentation, frequently result in unfair denials.
When a disability benefits claim is denied, the SSA will notify the claimant in writing. The notice will state the reason for the denial and inform the applicant of his or her right to appeal the decision. The first stage in the appeals process is to file a Request for Reconsideration, which must be submitted with 60 days of receiving the denial notice. Generally, there must be a new diagnosis or the condition must have become worse for a reconsideration claim to be approved. If a reconsideration claim is denied, the next step involves submitting a request for a disability hearing.
What happens at a disability hearing?
Disability hearings are conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who only hears cases concerning Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals. The ALJ is not bound by previous decisions and is required to review the claim based on the facts and evidence collected by Social Security and submitted by you or your representative.
Disability hearings are normally held at hearing offices, typically within 75 miles of the applicant’s residence. Hearings are not open to the public and are only attended by the ALJ, the applicant, his or her disability attorney, and any witnesses, such as a vocational or medical expert. Although a hearing via video teleconference can be arranged, this is only advisable in limited circumstances.
The ALJ will start the disability hearing by identifying the parties in attendance and reading a statement of facts about the claim. The ALJ will then ask the claimant questions about his or her medical condition, work history, and limitations caused by the disability. It is important for the claimant to be honest and to also provide specific examples of how the disability affects his or her ability to conduct daily activities, such as household chores, cooking meals, and attending social gatherings. Any limitations completing such day-to-day tasks and functions should be brought to light to help the ALJ better understand how the applicant’s condition impacts his or her ability to perform work activities. Naturally, it is also important that the medical records support and are consistent with these limitations and difficulties.
After the applicant testifies, his or her disability lawyer is allowed to speak and ask the claimant additional questions about the medical condition and the limitations it imposes. The lawyer should have reviewed these questions with the claimant before the hearing and should have answered any questions they may have.
SSA typically contracts a vocational expert to testify at the hearing about how specific limitations affect a person’s ability to perform his or her job or any other type of work. At the end of the hearing, the ALJ may ask additional questions of the applicant, the vocational expert and the applicant and his or her disability lawyer may be allowed to make a final statement.
The ALJ will likely not make a decision about the claim during the hearing, rather the claimant will receive a written notice typically within 60 to 90 days of the hearing date – that time period could be longer or shorter depending on the case. If the claim is denied, it is subject to review by the SSA Appeals Council and may ultimately be litigated in federal court.
Contact Our Lancaster Disability Hearings Attorney
Whether you are seeking disability benefits or your claim has been denied, Nikolaus & Hohenadel can help. Our disability lawyers are highly experienced in handling disability appeals and regularly represent clients at disability hearings. We will work closely with you and carefully evaluate all documentation and information needed to present the best case possible.
Although the disability claims process can be lengthy and complicated, we have the skills and determination to see you through it and ensure that you are treated fairly. With our disability lawyers by your side, you will have peace of mind knowing that we will fight tirelessly to help you obtain the benefits you need and deserve. Please contact our office today to learn how we can help. We offer free consultations and will not charge any attorneys’ fees until we obtain disability benefits for you.
Nikolaus & Hohenadel serves clients throughout Central Pennsylvania, including Lancaster, York, Lebanon, and Dauphin Counties and the cities of Lewistown, Harrisburg, Carlisle, and Chambersburg. Se habla Español.