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Social Security Disability Appeals - The Hearing Stage
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On average, Social Security disability examiners deny 66% of the initial applications they review. The reasons for this high denial rate are the subject of another article. In this article, I will discuss the appeals process, and specifically, the "hearing" stage.

Some states have a "reconsideration" stage before a claim is scheduled for a hearing. If yours does, it simply means that another examiner will review your file. Unless you submit additional evidence that is substantial enough to sway the second examiner, you will be denied again. In reality, very few claims are approved on "reconsideration", primarily because the second examiner uses the same decision making process as the first one.

So, you then get scheduled for a hearing, and will likely have to wait up to a year. The backlog of appealed claims is substantial, so it takes quite some time for your name to come up.

One big thing to remember is that this is a legal proceeding. There will be an Administrative Law Judge, a court stenographer recording the entire proceeding, and perhaps a vocational specialist. If the judge requests that a vocational specialist offer testimony, you will be notified of that prior to the hearing.

Now, for the most crucial aspect. The judge is not bound in any way by the previous decisions of disability examiners. The fact that you have appealed you claim is evidence by itself that the examiners did not find your claim persuasive. However, the judges understand that denying claims is part of the overall "culture" within the Social Security Administration, so this is actually your best chance to have a claim approved.

Do you need a lawyer? As I mentioned in a previous article, you may or may not need one prior to the "hearing" stage. However, it is my honest opinion that one is mandatory for the hearing. The judge needs to decide if you meet the legal definition of disability, and can only use your file and other evidence presented at the hearing to make that decision.

To use an analogy, let's say you would be awarded retroactive benefits of $10,000 if your claim were approved. So, in a manner of speaking, the judge will put a hypothetical "briefcase" in front of you and ask for the best legal argument in support of giving you that "briefcase". The last I knew, lawyers were the people trained to develop legal arguments.

So, to sum up, at the "hearing" stage, an independent judge will decide if you meet the legal definition of disability. They will use only the evidence in your file and other evidence presented in the hearing. With competent representation, your chances of approval are around 70%.


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