If you applied for social security disability (Type II) benefits and were denied, you are a member of a very large group! Approximately 90% of all applications are initially denied. Once you receive your denial, you have 60 days to appeal the decision and request a hearing before a social security administrative law judge. It is wise to seek legal representation at this point. Your attorney can file the proper forms for you or you can use the on-line appeal process to “preserve” your appeal. You can also call social security and tell the representative you speak to that you want to appeal the decision.
Once the appeal has been filed, you must continue to supply copies of your recent medical records to social security. The judge assigned to your case will review all your medical records before your hearing so he or she is familiar with the details of your disability. It generally takes approximately 6 to 9 months from the date you file your appeal to the date of the hearing.
Although the hearing itself is a formal process, it is not adversarial like a trial where you are suing someone or being sued. Hearings take place in various hearing centers located in the area where you live. Each hearing generally takes less than 1 hour. You must appear at the hearing, along with your lawyer and any witnesses who you decide to have testify on your behalf. It is not necessary to bring your doctor or any health care provider with you to testify. In addition to the judge, there were will be a clerk who takes down the testimony and a vocational expert who assists the judge in determining whether or not you are disabled under the social security guidelines.
Generally, during the hearing, both the judge and your attorney will ask you various questions so that they can develop a complete picture of your disability. A few weeks after the hearing you should receive a “letter opinion” from the judge which will either be “fully favorable” – meaning you will receive benefit, or “unfavorable” – meaning you will not receive benefits. Included in the opinion will be all the reasons the judge granted or denied your application. Approximately 60% of all appeals in which the claimant is represented by an attorney, receive “fully favorable” opinions.