Justin S. Raines
Why should I attend my hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ)?
The ALJ hearing is the best chance that you have of winning your case. Whether you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSD, SSDI, or DIB) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), about half of claimants who attend their hearing win. In comparison, only about a third of claimants who initially apply for disability benefits win.
A hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) is by far the most important step in the Social Security disability application and appeals process. The hearing is the first time that the person who makes the decision, the ALJ, will speak with you about your disabilities and how your severe physical or mental impairments limit your ability to perform basic work activities like sitting, standing, walking, lifting, pushing, pulling, concentrating, remembering, following directions, or getting along with others.
The ALJ hearing is also the first time that the decision in your case will be fully spelled out in a written decision. Even though the Social Security Administration (SSA) must give you a written explanation at each step of the application and appeal process, the ALJ decision gives the most detail.
If your hearing decision is unfavorable, the hearing sets the stage for future appeals. You want to include all your medical evidence before the hearing begins, and you want to obtain as many medical opinions as possible. It’s much harder to get this evidence reviewed once the hearing record is closed and the hearing is decided.
About 90% of claimants are represented at their hearings, and having an experienced attorney increases your chances of winning.
An experienced lawyer will have done hundreds of disability hearings and will know how to obtain medical and other evidence to help win your case. For example, if you’re working but not performing substantial gainful activity (SGA), you may need evidence from your employer to prove your case.
An experienced lawyer will also help prove the disability case throughout the five-step sequential analysis, which the ALJ will follow when deciding your case.
If you have a severe physical or mental illness or injury, you should consult with an attorney experienced in Social Security disability for help and advice proving your case.