How an SSI/SSD Attorney Can Help
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD) claims that are denied at reconsideration are appealed to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, by filing a Request for Hearing.
When they reach the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, SSI and SSD claims are screened to see if there are cases where Social Security Disability benefits can be awarded without hearing. That happens in a significant number of cases, and where a Fully Favorable Decision is possible, no hearing is necessary. In some of those cases, the claimant’s SSI and Social Security Disability attorney has obtained crucial records or an opinion from a treating doctor, which clarifies the case so that disability benefits can be allowed without hearing. A disability claim attorney who is knowledgeable in Social Security Disability will review your SSI and SSD claim case, to determine if you are a candidate for a Fully Favorable Decision, and to determine what additional evidence may help to get a favorable decision without waiting. Very often, despite the attorney’s best efforts, it is not possible to get a Fully Favorable Decision. It may depend on the Administrative Law Judge or Social Security Administration policy.
When the hearing is scheduled, a vocational expert is almost always called as a witness, and occasionally a medical advisor will be called. The vocational experts are almost always people with a good deal of training and experience in evaluating and placing injured workers, and they have training and experience in the hearing process. Claimants’ SSI and SSD attorneys worked hard for years to have vocational experts included in hearings, and more often than not, they help claimants’ cases more than they hurt them.
The Administrative Law Judge will have read the medical evidence before the hearing, and if the claimant is represented by an experienced SSI and Social Security Disability lawyer, the ALJ will listen to the SSI and SSD claimant’s testimony. Sometimes there will be further questioning by the ALJ, to clarify issues. Then the ALJ will ask questions of the vocational expert, including obtaining a written summary of the claimant’s past work over the last 15 years. Then the ALJ will ask the vocational expert what jobs would be available to the SSI and SSD claimant under a particular set of restrictions. That question, usually referred to as a “hypothetical,” will be fairly detailed. After the vocational expert has answered, the ALJ may ask a second and perhaps additional hypotheticals. People often want to predict the outcome of the case based on the vocational expert’s answer to a second or third hypothetical, but that is usually not very accurate. Depending on the restrictions that the ALJ actually finds apply in the SSI and SSD claim case, the ALJ may allow benefits, deny disability benefits, or decide that the person became more restricted at a certain point, and allow benefits only back to that point.
Importance of SSI/SSD Attorneys in Social Security Disability Appeals
It usually takes four to eight weeks, sometimes longer, to receive a decision, and the SSI and SSD claimant and disability claim attorney’s copies will be mailed at the same time. If the decision is favorable, there are often other programs which are available only to persons with favorable decisions, and the claimant should look into those.
If the decision is unfavorable or partially favorable, SSI and SSD claimants have the option of filing a new SSI and SSD claim, appealing to the Appeals Council in Virginia, or both. The claimant has 60 days from the receipt of the decision, which is assumed to be 5 days from the date of mailing, to file a Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order. Persons who have not had an SSI and SSD attorney at the hearing level may find it hard to find a lawyer to represent them at the Appeals Council. He or she may or may not be able to look at the medical records, but it will not be possible to review the testimony of the SSI and SSD claimant or of the vocational expert.