Social Security Disability

To be found disabled for purposes of receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) under either of SSD’s two (2) programs (RDSI or SSI), an individual (except for a title II widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse, or a Title XVI child younger than age 18) must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) of such severity that he or she is not only unable to do his or her previous work but cannot, considering his or her age, education, training, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. The SSD provides a sequential evaluation process for determining disability. The disability must last for a period of at least twelve (12) months.

Nationwide, about 70% of all applicants are initially denied benefits at the application process. Of those who appeal the application denial and proceed to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), approximately 50% nationwide receive benefits at the ALJ hearing level. In general, the application process takes about 3-6 months before a decision has been made. If the claimant loses at the application process and requests a hearing, the hearing will not generally take place until 12-15 months after the request for hearing has been submitted to SSA.

The ALJ hearing is an informal process and it is possible that a claimant can represent himself or herself at this level. However, statistics show that claimants who are represented by an attorney are successful more often than claimants without attorney representation.

Generally, attorneys who represent claimants at the hearing level, generally will assist or work with the claimant prior to the hearing in the following manner:

  • Gather medical and other items of evidence
  • Analyze specific of the case relative to SSA regulations
  • Gather additional reports from medical providers regarding your ability to work and/or the claimant’s restrictions on working as a result of the physical and/or mental impairments
  • Refer claimant to additional specialists, as may be required, in order to clear up issues that may have existed during the initial application process.
  • Review all medicals submitted to SSA
  • Request subpoenas as necessary
  • Advise and assist claimant in preparation of the hearing
  • Protect claimant’s rights during the hearing
  • Cross-examine adverse testimony primarily provided by SSA’s vocational expert
  • Submit a pre-hearing brief to the ALJ as to why claimant should be entitled to benefits
  • Present a closing argument at ALJ hearings

Generally, having an attorney at the ALJ SSD hearing stage can make all the difference in the outcome of getting a successful result for SSD benefits. Therefore, if a claimant has lost at the initial filing stage for SSD benefits they should contact an experienced SSD attorney like Seth T. Seidell to discuss the appeal process.