Why You Should Have a Lawyer at Your Disability Hearing
If you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and have received a denial of reconsideration, it’s not the end of your case: it is time to request a hearing. Before you walk into the room with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), it is a good idea to contact a California social security disability lawyer to help you review your case and decide how you will need to present it.
Although social security applications are a fairly complex area of law, it is not necessary to hire a lawyer before you submit your initial application. If you are concerned that your claim may be denied, you can look around to find an SSDI lawyer that you trust. This professional will be able to help you submit your application.
However, if you got it alone and receive a denial, make a first-step appeal for your case to be reviewed again and receive a denial of reconsideration, it is time to engage a California social security disability lawyer with the experience to walk you through the next steps. You only have 60 days to file a Request for Hearing after a denial of reconsideration arrives, so don’t wait. There are several advantages that an experienced SSDI lawyer can bring to your case.
Personal and Local Familiarity
There are often not very many ALJs in a geographic area, so a California social security disability lawyer who is based in your area is familiar with the ALJs that might be assigned to your case. This will allow you to prepare better for your hearing. ALJs are people and people have specific quirks and habits even in their jobs: one ALJ might be well-known for passing over certain questions, another might have a reputation for coming down hard on claimants with past addictions or DUIs, while another might prefer to conduct the hearing in a particular way, such as handling the questioning him or herself or letting the claimant and lawyers take the lead during the questioning.
Your local SSDI lawyer will know whether to prepare for certain types of questions and certain proceedings in order to present your case in the best possible light and ensure that important information is not left out of the hearing.
Getting a Medical Opinion
The ALJ who conducts your hearing has a great deal of leeway in how he or she handles the process, since these hearings are informal and not constrained by the rules of evidence that apply in court cases. However, the Social Security Administration does have regulations in place, such as those that require the ALJ to normally hold the medical opinions of your treating doctor over those of other medical professionals.
Your SSDI lawyer can walk your doctor through composing official letters, using the correct legal terms and descriptions and otherwise collecting all the necessary details of your disability and treatment. Many SSDI lawyers have specific forms or lists of questions to provide to your doctor in order to elicit all the information you need.
During the hearing, the SSA or the ALJ may bring a medical or vocational expert to testify. A medical expert will examine the medical evidence you have presented and testify to whether you meet the SSA’s requirements for a specific disability in the Listing of Impairments, a set of descriptions of medical conditions that can be considered SSDI-qualifying disability. In order to qualify, you must meet the requirements for a particular condition (or combination of conditions) or provide evidence that your condition is legally equivalent to one of the listed conditions. Your SSDI lawyer is allowed to cross-examine the medical expert and ensure that the expert’s medical opinion does not disregard your own doctor, misinterpret the listing or ignore parts of the evidence.
A vocational expert, on the other hand, testifies whether your disability prevents you from doing the types of work you have done in the past, or any type of work at all. During this part of the hearing, it is unfortunately possible, even likely, that the ALJ will ask the vocational expert legally disallowed questions. Your lawyer can object to this, as well as questioning the vocational expert further.
If the hearing ends with the ALJ finding you not sufficiently disabled to receive SSDI, the rigorous questioning is still entered into the hearing record and provides a foundation to continue appealing your case. Your chances of a favorable outcome, now or in the future, are much better with a California social security disability lawyer on your side.