For a person who has a long-term disability, Social Security benefits can make a dramatic financial difference. The denial of an SSDI or SSI claim is stressful and frustrating, but you have the right to appeal—potentially to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. In this article, our Arkansas Social Security disability lawyer provides a comprehensive guide to ALJ hearings, including the key things that you should know about the process, preparation, and presentation.
Background: You Have the Right to Appeal a Social Security Disability Denial
Too many people mistakenly believe that an initial denial is the end of the road. However, this is far from reality. You have the right to appeal. As noted by the official data from the Social Security Administration (SSA), 70 percent of initial claims are denied. A substantial percentage of Social Security disability denials are reversed on appeal.
An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing is the Second Stage of the Appeals Process
Once your initial appeal (or “reconsideration”) is denied, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This is the second stage of the Social Security Disability appeals process. A key thing to know about an ALJ is that they are not employees of the SSA.
Know the Process: How Does an ALJ Hearing Work in a Disability Appeal?
How does the process actually work? During an ALJ hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your case—possibly including witnesses, vocational information, and new medical evidence. Your attorney may also help you give information about your disability and how it affects your daily life. The judge will also examine the documentation from your original application and the reconsideration phase. The hearing is less formal than a court proceeding, but it shares many of the same basic components.
An Attorney Can Help You Prepare and Present Your Case
Though you are not required to have an attorney at your ALJ hearing, it can be greatly beneficial to do so. Social Security disability law is complex. An Arkansas Social Security disability lawyer can help you navigate the appeals process, prepare your testimony, and gather compelling evidence. As every case is different, it is crucial that you have personalized representation.
A Further Appeal is Still Possible After an Adverse ALJ Decision
Even if the ALJ’s decision is not in your favor, it is important to know that you can still appeal to an even higher level. The next stage is the Appeals Council—which is made up of a panel of administrative judges. The panel reviews the ALJ’s decision for any errors. If the council identifies any, it may reverse the decision. If unsuccessful at this level, your final option is to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Set Up a Free Consultation Arkansas Social Security Disability Attorney Today
At Gallo Cazort & Co. Law Firm, our Arkansas Social Security disability lawyers invest time, resources, and personal attention into every case that we take on. If you have any questions about a legal matter, we are here to help you determine the best path forward. Contact us today for a no cost, no commitment case review. With an office in Rogers, we handle Social Security disability claims across Northwest Arkansas, including in Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville, and Fort Smith.