We understand that having your claim denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA) is devastating. But don’t worry just yet.
This is incredibly common, and you can appeal your decision. According to the Disability Benefits Center, more than 70% of the disability claims received in Alabama are not approved during the initial stage of the application process. To make matters worse, nearly three-fourths of Alabama Social Security Disability applicants are also denied at the first stage of appeals. In fact, the majority of Alabama Social Security Disability applicants must appear before an Administrative Law Judge before receiving the disability benefits, they are entitled to.
But what steps should you take to get to this point? Read our guide to learn more.
Where to Begin?
Getting started is always the hardest part, but rest assured the process is pretty straightforward once you know what to expect. You only have 60 days after receiving your denial to file your appeal so do not delay in seeking help from an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney.
Gather your Resources
At your hearing, the judge will take the following into consideration: evidence of your symptoms, doctors’ observations, and medical tests. The more information you provide, the better, so you will want to start gathering any missing information you can now.
You may want to keep a journal to track your pain and symptoms, at least for every day leading up to your hearing. Be as specific as possible. Note where you hurt, what causes the pain, the pain’s intensity, and how your treatment affects you. Remember, you know your body better than anybody, so never be afraid to speak up. Also ask your doctor to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form which is provided by your attorney.
What Else Will I Need?
Now it is time for the hard part: filing the appeal. The thought of doing this whole thing all over again may fill you with dread, which is completely understandable. The good news is that you probably won’t be writing your whole application from scratch; you will likely use much of the same information you provided in your original application. You should be sure to include any additional information that may help your case. It is helpful in your case to have a third party such as a close relative or close friend fill out a written statement provided by your attorney. Although your family knows you best and can surely vouch for you and your symptoms, you might want to ask someone who best knows your work, like a former boss or coworker. Make sure this person provides specific examples of when your condition kept you from performing adequately at work.
Appearing in Court: What to Expect
You will attend a disability hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Typically, those present for a disability hearing will be the Claimant, his or her attorney or advocate, the ALJ, an assistant who records the proceedings, and an expert witness or two that have been hired by the SSA to respond to questions related to your specific case.
You, as the Claimant, will be questioned by the Judge. These questions revolve around your medical problems, your medical treatment, your past employment, your educational background, and how the medical problems impact your activities of daily living. You need to be ready to discuss any limitations caused by your medical problems and how your activities of daily living are impacted. Also take the time to talk up your work history: communicate your past accomplishments and note any recognition or awards you earned at work. This is your chance to advocate for you!
Your attorney or advocate can speak on your behalf. In some instances, this person might ask you additional questions to show the Judge more in-depth about your condition so be sure to fully fill out the intake questionnaire to the best of your ability.
Any expert witnesses in attendance will be asked about your condition and any work you would be able to do with your medical impairments. These individuals provide details about your ability to work and sustain at a particular job or what jobs they feel you may be suited to perform despite your medical impairments.
Following the expert witness, the ALJ might ask you additional questions. Usually, the ALJ will ask if you would like to make additional comments on the record.
You more than likely will not receive a decision the day of your hearing. It can take up to 120 days to be notified of the Judge’s decision. Sometimes, in extenuating circumstances, the Judge can issue a bench decision to let you know if your claim is going to be approved or not.
If you cannot travel to your place of hearing, you might be able to opt for a video teleconference. If you are unhappy with the results of the hearing, your next step will be to request a review with the Appeals Council.
However, so long as you keep all of your medical history in order and stay in regular contact with your attorney and medical providers, your appeal should go smoothly and a bigger chance of success. Take a deep breath and just remember that you are doing this to ensure that you get the help you need.
Getting the Legal Help You Deserve
You deserve an attorney who treats you with respect and takes the time to know you as a person. If you are concerned about cost, do know that a Social Security Disability attorney will not receive any compensation unless your disability claim is approved. Also, any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by your attorney in connection with your legal representation (i.e. medical records) will be included at the conclusion of your case. Reach out to us today.