How to Prepare for Disability Hearing
Did you know that 7.5 percent of all Arkansas residents receive monthly disability benefits from the Social Security Administration? This year, even more residents will apply for disability benefits. If you are one of those people, you need to understand that the majority of SSDI applications are denied. In fact, nearly 68 percent of disability claims are denied. When this happens, you will need to go through the lengthy and complex disability appeals process.
The first step of the SSDI appeals process is called a Request for Reconsideration. During this stage of the appeals process, an astonishing 88 percent of applicants are denied further. After this occurs, you will need to attend a disability hearing and stand before an Administrative Law Judge. Before you do this, you need to know specifically how to prepare for your disability hearing.
Steps to Prepare for Your SSDI Hearing
It is important to know that the majority of Arkansas SSDI applicants do receive benefits after their hearings. It is estimated that 66 percent of SSDI applicants who attend disability hearings will receive the benefits they need. However, without an attorney on your side, you may not be one of those people. There is a lot riding on the Administrative Law Judge’s opinion. As such, it is best to understand how to prepare for your SSDI hearing.
Understand Your Claim
It is important to spend time reviewing your case file with your attorney. Understanding your claim is the first step towards preparing for your SSDI hearing. Review the documents you have, including your application and the SSA’s reason for denying your claim. Familiarize yourself with those documents, so you can prepare to argue why you deserve to collect SSDI benefits.
Prepare Your Notes
At your disability hearing, you will be allowed to use notes to help you discuss your claim. As such, do not worry about memorizing everything. Instead, focus on making detailed notes to help you answer the Administrative Law Judge’s questions about your case. You will want to include your Medical and Job Worksheet, as well as detailed information about your disabilities and medical records. Your SSDI attorney can help you prepare these notes to the best of their ability and ensure that you are well prepared for your hearing.
Gather Recent Medical Records
One of the best ways to get your SSDI application approved is to give the Administrative Law Judge some new evidence. As soon as you receive notice of your hearing, contact your doctor and healthcare providers. Gather all relevant medical records and ask your doctor for new tests to help back up your disability claims. You must submit copies of these records and documents to the judge prior to your hearing. However, make extra copies for yourself to include in your notes. This will help you establish your disability claims better.
Get Expert Opinions
Another piece of evidence that is helpful to include are statements from medical experts, as well as family members. Written statements about how your disability affects your everyday life, your ability to work, and your overall health. Former employers can also give statements to how you used to work prior to your disability. Your doctor can also complete a Residual Functional Capacity report form to show how your disability impacts your life. Even if your doctor has already completed this form, it is best to ask them to complete a new one prior to your hearing.
Tips to Win Your SSDI Hearing
It takes a long time to get to your SSDI hearing. In many cases, you may wait a year or more to get to court and stand before the Administrative Law Judge. Until then, here are some tips to help you win your SSDI hearing:
- Hire an SSDI Lawyer
- Show Up on Time
- Make a Good Appearance
- Prepare Good Notes and Documents
- Do Not Minimize the Effects of Your Disability
One of the best ways to win your SSDI hearing is to hire an experienced attorney to help represent you. While you can represent yourself, it is not recommended. Applicants with legal representation have a greater chance of winning the benefits they need. Your attorney can help ensure that your case is prepared strongly and that you have the necessary evidence and documentation to back up your claims.
At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas SSDI attorneys will help you prepare your case and give you the best chance of success at your SSDI hearing. Our lawyers will support you every step of the way, so you feel prepared as you enter the court.
What to Know About Your SSDI Hearing
Before the Hearing
You or your attorney may request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You can request this online or by writing the SSA directly. All requests must be in writing. Once the SSA has received your request, they will assign you a hearing date and a judge. Once your hearing date and judge is set, you can then begin preparing for your case.
It is important to know that the SSA will no longer gather medical records on your behalf. Once your claim is denied, they will stop developing your case. As such, it is up to you to gather medical records and submit them to the ALJ.
At least 75 days before your hearing, you will receive a notice from the SSA telling you the date, time and location of your SSDI hearing. This place will be within 75 miles of your home in general. If you are unable to travel because of your disability, you can tell the SSA you are unable to travel and request a remote hearing.
Day of the Hearing
On the day of the hearing, it is important to dress appropriately. Remember, you only have one chance to make a good impression. You want to arrive in clean and presentable clothing. You do not have to wear formal clothing, but torn, ripped or dirty clothes will just show a lack of respect for the courts.
Be sure to show up on time or even early. Do not arrive late or your case may be dismissed. When your hearing begins, it is important to speak honestly with the ALJ.
When the ALJ is speaking, do not interrupt. The judge will ask you questions about your disability and your case. Be friendly and polite and wait until they are finished speaking before answering. Your attorney will help you understand more of what questions the judge may ask about your disability. Even if you think it may hurt your disability claim, be honest. Your attorney can help you learn what not to say in front of the judge or how to present your disability in the best way.
When answering the judge’s questions, be sure to give a clear picture of your impairment. Paint a picture in the ALJ’s mind about your disability and how it directly impacts your life. If it prevents you from hugging your grandchildren, be sure to say that. If it prevents you from tying your shoes or brushing your teeth, make sure to mention that.
Be prepared to answer questions about your medical records, especially if there are treatment gaps. The ALJ will want to understand why you were not seeking treatment during this time. If you were without insurance, be sure to state this. If your symptoms improved briefly during that time, be sure to mention that clearly and then explain why they worsened.
During the hearing, you may call any expert witnesses and family witnesses that can help you show how your disability has impacted your life. This includes friends, family members, medical experts and vocational experts. The ALJ will want to hear from them as well as from you during your hearing.
After Your Hearing
After your hearing, you will get the ALJ’s decision. If your case was approved, you can then start to collect the disability benefits you deserve. If your case was denied, you can continue through the appeals process. Your next step will be to work with your attorney and appeal your case to the Appeals Council. You must file this appeal within 60 days of receiving your administrative hearing decision.
Contact Our Arkansas SSDI Attorneys
If you need to apply for social security disability in Arkansas, it is important to speak with an experienced SSD lawyer immediately. We can help you file the disability claims you need and prevent mistakes from occurring that could jeopardize your claim. With six offices in Arkansas and Tennessee—Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant and Memphis —our SSDI lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you need us. Fill out a free contact request form, which only takes a minute, or simply dial (800) 767-4815 and tell us your story.