What Is The Wait Time For A Disability Hearing Decision
Once you have been through a Social Security Disability hearing with an Administrative Law Judge, you need to wait for your decision to come in the mail. Six weeks to 3 months is the usual time that should be expected. But the length of time that this may take varies based on several factors.
If you have a disability attorney, he/she may have a good idea how long a particular judge takes to come to a decision. Some of the time factor is due to the judge, but it also depends on if the office is under-staffed and how heavy the case load currently is at your specific office. The Administrative Law Judge makes the final decision on each case that comes before them. The actual decision that will be mailed to your home is written by a decision writer who is a part of the staff at your local ODAR office. The decision is sent to the judge to look over and sign before it is mailed out. So it could be the ALJ who is back-logged or it could be the staff writer.
Sometimes a judge is waiting for further medical evidence that was not present at the time of your hearing. Occasionally, a judge will request a new Consultative Exam and will wait for the report before making a decision. This is good because more evidence may help your case even if it does slow down your decision.
Don’t Exaggerate Or Minimize Your Symptoms
The hearing is usually the first and only opportunity claimants have to speak directly to the person who decides whether they’re disabled. With so much at stake, some claimantspossibly nervous that the judge won’t understand their strugglesoverstate their symptoms.
But exaggerating your symptoms is the quickest way to sink an otherwise valid disability claim. You don’t want to cause the ALJ to doubt what you’re saying. Here’s an example of the kind of exchange that will raise red flags with an ALJ:
ALJ: How often does your back hurt?
Claimant: All the time. It hurts 24 hours a day.
ALJ: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?
Claimant: It’s a 10.
ALJ: It’s a 10 all the time? Is there anything you can do to decrease the pain, like relaxing in a recliner, lying down, or maybe taking a warm bath?
Claimant: No, nothing makes it better. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps at all.
The ALJ is likely going to think that the claimant isn’t being completely honest. “10 out of 10” pain usually requires a trip to the hospital, and back pain can often be improved temporarily with medication, reclining, or applying heat or ice. Judges are skeptical when a claimant states that they experience the maximum amount of pain possible every minute of the day.
You don’t want to minimize your symptoms, either. Unlike a job interview where you have to put your best face forward, the hearing is your place to talk about the day-to-day limitations that prevent you from working.
What If The Judge Disregarded The Rfc Form That My Doctor Filled Out For Me That I Think Says I Am Disabled
You might want to state that: The ALJ failed to give proper consideration and weight to the records and opinions of treating sources pursuant to Provision of 20 CFR 404.1527 and 416.927 and Social Security Rulings 96-2p and 96-5p and 96-6p and adequately explain the weight given to such opinion evidence. Or
The ALJ failed to consider additional medical records submitted to the ALJ prior to the entry of the ALJs decision in this case. Or The ALJ erred in failing to accord adequate weight to the opinion of my treating physician. Or The ALJ erred in improperly discounting the opinions of my treating physician Dr. _______ stating without basis in fact or reason as to how or why the treating physicians opinions appear to rest at least in part on an assessment of an impairment outside the doctors area of expertise and were rendered less than persuasive, or The ALJ erred in not finding Dr. ________s opinions persuasive stating without basis in fact or reason that the opinions appeared to be internally inconsistent.
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The Judge Does Not Ask Many Questions And Goes Straight To Vocational Expert Testimony
You have the burden of proof at the first four stages. But this burden shifts to the SSA at step five. At this final stage, the SSA must show that there is other work you can perform given your age, education, acquired job skills, and residual functional capacity .
The SSA uses vocational experts to meet its burden. A VE is a witness paid by the SSA who knows about job availability in the labor market and the skills and physical and mental capabilities needed to do those jobs.
In my experience, it is a good sign when the judge asks the VE to testify soon after the hearing starts. Usually, it means the judge has determined you have limitations that prevent you from doing your past work. And, more often than not, expects the hypothetical questions submitted to the VE will result in testimony that no jobs exist with your limitations.
Signs You Have Won Your Social Security Disability Claims
We often get the question: “Will I win my Social Security Disability Case?” when claimants are applying for their disability benefits. To be honest, there are some signs that may hint on whether you would win your disability case.
Apart from your eligibility criterion and other conditions you may have met, there also non formal facts such as your judge’s approval date, the severity of your disability compared with other disabled people with disability similar to yours and how it may or may not have impacted them and whether or not your medical record looks genuine enough to prove that your disability does pose a serious hindrance to your day-to-day functionality.
Remember your disability examiner or judge also looks into whether your medical record offers serious proof or whether you would be able to perform substantial gainful activity or not and whether you would be a reliable employee at a simple entry-level job that you can do by working around your disability. For instance, if you previously worked as a bus conductor but are held on a wheelchair now, you could still perform some kind of substantial gainful activity such as being a clerk if you hold enough qualifications for that. So, these are all the things that may or may not tip the balance in your favor.
If you or your loved one needs help with filing for your disability at any point in your application or hearings process, you can avail our counsel 24/7.
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The Social Security Hearing Room
A Social Security hearing room is nothing more than a small conference room. It may have a few official trappings such as the seal of the Social Security Administration or an American flag.
Hearing rooms are always equipped with a conference table. There also may be a small table for the judges assistant. Usually there is a judges desk on a small riser that is slightly above the level of the conference table where you will sit.
Never Say: I Have Never Used Drugs Or Alcohol In My Life
If that statement is true, then of course it is fine to say. But if you have used it, and you are asked about it, dont lie.
On one hand, the word never is hard to believe: is not a credible one. On the other hand, if you say you havent used drugs or alcohol in the past, but the opposite is mentioned in the medical history diagnostic reports, then you have just ruined your credibility with the judge. The best thing you can do in this situation is to tell the absolute truth. If a judge catches you in a lie, then you can bet your case will be denied.
Depending on the severity of your drug and alcohol use, your attorney may be able to neutralize the situation. This is something you should talk to the lawyers in a pre-hearing stage, so we can assess the situation and decide whats the best way to handle it.
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Stage One: Initial Application
An SSDI claimant’s first step in applying for SSDI benefits is to apply. You can submit this application by phone or online at a local Social Security hearing office. Some disability lawyers help claimants file their initial applications, whereas some lawyers encourage applicants to file independently.
What Should I Do At My Disability Hearing
First things first: dont feel overwhelmed by legal issues, judges, oaths and by the idea of a solemn courtroom. Your disability attorney will advise you, explain everything you need to know.
Be prepared to discuss your medical history. This includes discussing when and how your disability began, what treatments you have tried, and any information about your disability that your doctor may have provided. Some people feel embarrassed when talking about their disability: remember that theres nothing to be ashamed of, the Social Security representatives and judges are familiar with your condition and probably theyve seen hundreds of cases like yours.
Be honest and accurate. It is extremely important to be truthful and accurate about the following topics: your daily habits and your disability. If your statements dont match your medical records, you will lose your credibility, then the judges trust and, consequently, you wont get the benefits you are claiming for.
Be honest and accurate when describing your disability and its effects on your ability to work. The social security administration will verify the information you provide, so it is important to be truthful. If you are not sure about something, ask the social security representative for clarification.
Five Things That Happen At Your Social Security Hearing
Submitted by Deanna on Mon, 02/24/2020 – 08:13Deanna’s Blog
Five things that will happen at your Social Security disability hearing include: being questioned by the judge, your disability attorney speaking on your behalf, having an eyewitness speak on your behalf, the ALJ will let you make additional comments and you will get a more clear picture of when you will be getting a decision.
If you were denied disability benefits and then also denied benefits at your reconsideration, your claim will progress on to a disability hearing. Social Security Administration hearings are not like regular courtroom hearings. An administrative law judge presides over a disability hearing.
These hearings are not open to the public, so anyone accompanying you will be left in the waiting room. These hearings are usually held in small conference rooms or might sometimes be done by video conferencing.
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 there could be an expert witness or two that has been hired by the SSA to respond to questions related to your particular conditions and case.
While the process can vary significantly depending on the reason a claim was denied and the medical problems of the claimant, there are some general things that will take place at your Social Security hearing.
The Judge Issues A Bench Decision At The Hearing
Bench decisions are fully favorable decisions read into the evidentiary record. The judge will tell you the hearing went well for you and that you can expect to receive a written decision consistent with the bench decision within a few weeks.
However, you should not worry if the judge fails to issue a bench decision. Indeed, they are rare in my experience . And some judges will not decide the claim at the hearing no matter how strong the evidence.
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The Judge Comments On The Strength Of The Objective Evidence In Your Case
Many disability claims depend on credibility.
Whether the judge believes your subjective complaints of pain or mental health symptoms determines the outcome. This is because it is difficult to quantify or test pain or psychiatric impairments, even though they are often disabling.
However, some claims have more objective evidence.
For example, suppose a motor vehicle crash or work injury resulted in your medical impairments. And you have medical imaging showing your fractures or torn rotator cuff. Or can show your burn injury resulting in disfigurement and reduced abilities. Then the hearing probably went well if the judge mentioned the strength of this evidence during the hearing.
The Order In Which Things Happen At The Hearing
Many judges begin Social Security disability hearings by reciting the case history of your disability claim and stating the issues to be decided. Judges often state what you have to prove in your case but they seldom give a clear and simple explanation. They usually say that in order to be found disabled for purposes of Social Security disability benefits you must be unable to perform substantial gainful activity which exists in significant numbers in the economy, considering your age, education and work experience. When they say this, it almost sounds like youve got to be bedridden to get disability benefits but this isnt true.
The judge may question you first. Then the judge will give your lawyer a chance to ask you some questions. Occasionally, if a claimant is well prepared to testify, the lawyer doesnt have to ask any questions at all.
On the other hand, some judges expect lawyers to handle most of the questioning. If so, answer questions asked by your lawyer as if a stranger were the one asking them. Sometimes a claimant gives incomplete answers when his or her lawyer asks questions, because the lawyer already knows a lot about the case. But it is important to keep in mind that the judge, who will decide your case, doesnt know the answers until you say them. Although the judge probably will read your file before the hearing, when youre testifying, it is best to assume that the judge knows nothing about your case. Plan on explaining everything.
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Alj Issues A Bench Decision At Your Hearing
In certain cases, the ALJ may issue a bench decision. The ALJ informs you that your claim has been successful and that you can expect to receive a written decision within a few days after the hearing. Bench decisions are generally granted based on exceptional preparation and consistent testimony.
If a bench decision is not made, it is important not to take the ALJs demeanor as an indicator of the outcome of your claim. You should also never assume whether a disability hearing went well based on how the ALJ behaved with you. However, if you think the ALJ was biased against you or that your hearing was handled unfairly, a lawyer can file a complaint with the Division of Quality Service.
What If I Disagree With The Judge’s Decision
If you disagree with the judge’s decisionâeither the judge denied you benefits or you disagree with the disability onset date the judge gave youâyou can appeal to the Appeals Council. The Notice of Denial or Notice of Award letter will give you the deadline for appealing an ALJ decision: 60 days after you receive the hearing notice.
You can request an appeal by writing to the SSA and requesting an Appeals Council review or by completing Form HAâ520 .
Is it worth it to appeal one more time? It may help you decide your next steps to read more about your chances of winning an Appeals Council review. Or, talk to a disability lawyer or advocate.
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Ways To Know You Had A Successful Hearing
I always spend some time talking with my clients after a Social Security disability hearing to discuss how the hearing went. It is a chance to look back and tell the client what was good , and give a prognosis. There is a great deal at stake at these hearings, and I want the client to return home with a fair idea of the probable result.
Disability hearings are completely unfamiliar to most applicants. Ideally, at the end of the hearing the judge states that the claim will be granted, and that a written decision will be forthcoming. But that does not happen as often as it should, and applicants often leave the hearing office without knowing the outcome of their claim.
Nevertheless, certain events at the hearing mean that the claim will be granted. However, these events are often not recognized by clients as an indicator of a fully favorable decision.
You know you will receive Social Security disability benefits after your hearing if:
Do Any Signs Show That You Lost Your Disability Hearing
Other than the three situations above, it can be really hard to get an idea of what the judge thinks. Applicants will try to read meaning into a judge’s behavior at the hearing, but they’re more often wrong than not. But if your lawyer is familiar with your ALJ, they might have a pretty good idea of how your case will turn out.
But taken alone, none of the following situations are signs that you won or lost your hearing.
The judge asked a lot of questions. Usually, the number of questions the judge asks doesn’t sway the decision one way or another. Oftentimes judges ask a lot of questions because they want to get a clear understanding of the timeline and treatment history of your medical condition and your work history.
My judge was really nice or really harsh. The judge’s demeanor doesn’t shed light on how the judge will decide your case. Judges are people too, with their own personalities. Some judges appear very warm and welcoming, while others are very “straight-to-business.” Neither personality makes a judge more or less likely to approve a case. Judges, regardless of their mood or personality, apply Social Security’s rules to the facts of your case to make a decision.
My decision is taking a long time to come. The length of time it takes to receive the judge’s decision in the mail is not an indicator of approval or denial.
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