Articles Posted in The Hearing Process

And so now you’ve been provided with your upcoming hearing date and time and you have no idea what to expect.  In part II, we’ll attempt to make you feel comfortable about the hearing process itself and what you should expect on the day of your hearing.

You can expect you’ll be provided advanced notice of your hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at least 75 days in advance. Ordinarily, 3-4 days prior to the hearing you’ll receive a recorded message explaining that you should show up to the hearing an hour in advance.  It will be important to read carefully the notice of hearing you’ve been provided in the mail months in advance as it will contain important information such as where and when the hearing will be held, the items you should bring (such as a picture ID)  and what issues will be addressed at hearing.

Upon arrival at the hearing office, you can expect to be met by a security guard who will check you in and will scan you for weapons.  With this in mind, be sure not to bring with you anything that can be construed as a weapon: whether it be mace, a pocket knife or even needles you might require for your diabetes condition (leave this in your car, and should you need to test your sugars, plan on doing this outside of the hearing office location).

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You’ve filed your Request for Hearing and now you’re playing the waiting game, wondering what to expect next in your Social Security disability claim.   Whether you’re in Maine, Massachusetts or New Hampshire, the wait can be a long one.  In part 1 of this blog entry we’ll fill you in as to what you can expect.  In part 2, we’ll make sure you understand soup to nuts what to expect on the day of your hearing.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that whether you request a hearing following an initial denial letter out of New Hampshire, or a reconsideration denial out of Maine or Massachusetts, the hearing itself will not take place soon.  The likely wait for a hearing is in the neighborhood of what can be anywhere from 8 to 12 months with the Massachusetts and New Hampshire hearing offices (although some hearings out of the Portland, Maine hearing office are still taking up to 14 months).    Soon after you file your request for hearing (within ordinarily 2-4 weeks of filing your request for hearing) , you will receive a letter from Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) acknowledging the hearing office’s receipt of your file.

The initial letter from the hearing office will inform you that you will be notified as to the time and place of your hearing at least 75 days in advance of the hearing. Likewise, the letter will explain to you that in some circumstances your case can be heard more quickly and efficiently by way of  videoteleconference or what is termed a VTC hearing.   Should you agree to proceed by way of VTC, this  will mean that your case will not be heard in person before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Instead, you will appear in front of a judge by way of a video camera, much in the same way that those charged with a crime and held in jail, might make a preliminary appearance before a judge for purposes of bail.     While this process may be an expeditious one for the Social Security Administration’s  (SSA’s) purpose, as they can assign and schedule cases before judges that are in other parts of the country that might not be as busy and can hear the case more quickly, this process is quite impersonal as you can well imagine.  This is not to mention the fact that if your attorney is being asked to prepare before a judge with whom he has no familiarity, this may put your attorney and you at a disadvantage.   You will be provided with only twenty (20) days to Object to Proceeding by way of VTC and so you do not want to miss this deadline.  Our office always objects.  Continue reading

When pursuing a Social Security disability claim, it is important to understand that the disability determination process is not a perfect one. The majority of individuals are denied on their initial application, and, at the end of the appeals process, only 1 in 3 are ultimately approved for receipt of disability benefits.   When a claimant receives a partially favorable decision of their claim, which is not entirely uncommon, there are some very important considerations to take into account before deciding whether you should appeal that decision.  A wrong decision can prove to be devastating.

Receiving a partially favorable decision typically involves receiving a decision that means the Social Security Administration (SSA) has found you are “disabled” as that term is defined under Social Security’s rules, but that you are being found disabled with an onset date different than the one you alleged on your application for benefits.    For a Social Security disability lawyer, properly advising a claimant as to whether to appeal that decision is not always an easy one.

Initially, it may be clear that because of the need to show that one has remained disabled from a “severe medically determinable impairment” that either has met a medical listing of impairment or had remained severe and disabling such that the individual will remain disabled from all forms of gainful employment for what will be or what has been a year or longer (or is likely to result in death) that either the condition was not diagnosed or treated until a later point in time (and so the proof of the condition simply does not exist at an earlier time).  This may make the decision whether to appeal much easier.

As a Social Security lawyer handling the Reconsideration process in Maine and Massachusetts (New Hampshire remains a pilot project state where a claimant goes directly to hearing), it is difficult to inform our clients of the low chance of success at the reconsideration level.  However, the work to be undertaken at this level is just as important as the initial application level and can pave the way for a smooth hearing down the road (which is the likely eventuality if one has been denied initially, whether it be in Maine, Massachusetts or New Hampshire). Continue reading

We face the same question, on a daily basis, from our prospective Maine Social Security disability clients: I have been disabled from working for a number of months, and, prior to contacting your office, I filed a disability claim.  I have since been denied.  Would you recommend that we appeal this denial at this time?  Will you assist with our appeal?

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The Social Security disability hearing process before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is meant as an opportunity to hear from you as to why you believe you’re unable to work any job for which you’re reasonably suited by age, education and experience.   Given this, the ALJ is interested in finding out to what extent one remains functional both in and out of the home and, correspondingly, the extent to which one’s various medical conditions might impact one’s ability to sustain certain activities in a work setting. Continue reading

When you’ve spent the better part of two (2) years waiting for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) it is rather normal to be nervous before the hearing.   Understanding what the purpose of the judge’s questions are and what the judge is looking for in the way of answers so as to properly decide your claim can help ensure that you address your answers in a way that will prove most meaningful to the ALJ that is hearing your case that day. Continue reading

Having undertaken Social Security disability hearings for more than twenty-six (26) years, we have seen good times and bad times when it comes to how long one needs to wait to get to a hearing.   While the procedure in the State of New Hampshire is more streamlined than that which takes place in Maine and Massachusetts (from the standpoint of remaining a pilot project state where the need to undergo a request for reconsideration process before proceeding with a hearing request has been removed), all three (3) states have lengthy wait periods that remain quite frustrating to Social Security disability claimants who have remained long term disabled and without an income.   Here is an update as to where things stand.

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There are a number of different scenarios in which one will find Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) in Social Security disability claims consult with medical experts.  Understanding why such experts may be consulted and how their opinions may impact your case is important and can help relieve some of the stress involved with attending a hearing before an ALJ.  Continue reading

In the first part of our blog series on Vocational Experts and their role in the Administrative Hearing process we explained the legal issues that arise in a Social Security disability claim and the manner in which an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will go through their sequential evaluation process and, if appropriate and necessary as part of that, utilize the services of a Vocational Expert (VE) at hearing.  In Part II of this series, we’ll discuss the process by which a VE will prepare for and testify at the actual hearing.  Continue reading