An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Navigate Your Social Security Disability Case
When your disability claim form is denied at the application and reconsideration levels, your next step is to request a social security disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge. While many people become nervous at the idea of presenting their case before a judge, the social security disability hearing is not designed to be confrontational or adversarial – in fact, the process is much less informal than criminal or civil court.
The administrative law judge will review your disability case file, as well as any updated medical information you provide, prior to the hearing date. He will also hear testimony from any witnesses you may call to testify on your behalf. The judge may ask you questions about your disability and its impact on your ability to work; if she does not, you may ask to address the judge.
But just because the social security disability hearing is more informal than traditional court appearances, it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from hiring an attorney. In fact, hiring an experienced social security disability attorney can improve the chances that your claim will be approved.
Here are three ways an attorney can help you prepare for a social security disability hearing.
Review your case file
This is especially important if you submitted the disability claim form and appeal for reconsideration without assistance from an attorney or disability advocate. An experienced social security disability attorney can review your case file to determine why the SSA denied your claim. Factors that could have resulted in the denial of your claim include:
- Failure to provide appropriate documentation of your disability, i.e., MRI’s, X-rays, treatment notes or a physician’s statement
- Failure to provide proof of work history showing you qualify for SSDI
- Failure to provide financial information showing you fall below the allowable income and resource limits (for appeals of SSI claims)
- Failure to specifically state the expected length of your disability
Determining why your disability claim was denied helps you know what additional information to provide to the judge in order to have your claim approved.
Obtain updated medical information
Several months may elapse from the time you request a social security disability hearing until the date of the hearing. During that time your medical condition may have changed, and you may have more documentation that will prove your disability and its negative impact on your ability to work.
An attorney can help you obtain this updated medical information. An experienced social security disability attorney knows the exact terminology that must be included in a physician’s statement of disability to meet the SSA’s strict guidelines, and can ensure that your physician provides the correct information in his medical source statement and in any testimony he provides at trial. Medical requests from attorneys also sometimes carry more weight than if you called the doctor’s office and requested the information yourself.
A social security disability attorney also knows what medical information is most likely to sway the judge – for example, statements from a holistic healer would not carry as much weight as those of an orthopedic surgeon when it comes to describing the physical limitations imposed by your disability. Providing too much information can be as costly a mistake as providing too little.
An attorney will ensure that only medical statements that can be supported by appropriate medical documentation, such as MRI’s or X-rays, are submitted to the judge.
Help Prepare your Testimony
Testifying before a judge can be stressful. Having to do so when your claim for disability benefits is on the line only increases the stress levels. A social security disability attorney can help alleviate some of that stress by helping you prepare your testimony for the hearing. Your attorney will help you prepare your statement to the judge and ensure that it includes only information relevant to your disability.
A review of your case file, along with the reasons for the initial denial of your claim, can also help the attorney uncover possible questions the judge may ask at the hearing regarding your disability and its impact on your ability to work. Being prepped for the hearing ahead of time will decrease the chances that you forget to provide the court with crucial information regarding your disability.
By hiring an attorney to represent you at your social security disability hearing, you will not only be more prepared, but you will increase the chances that your claim will be approved. If you’ve been denied social security benefits or are applying for the first time, contact Neil H. Good online or call #(847) 577-4476 for a free case evaluation today.