After a long and tough wait, you finally get a letter in the mail from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (SSA Hearing Office) that lets you know that you have a “Notice of Hearing”. You are excited because you finally have your hearing date. Now, you are stressing because of two things:
- What does the letter mean?
- What do you do next??
Fortunately, the notice is fairly straightforward but here are a few things you should remember. If you have a NOTICE of HEARING, my discussion mirrors the way your notice is explained:
- It is important that you attend your hearing.
- Make EVERY attempt to attend the hearing. I know it’s tough if you don’t have any transportation but if, for some odd reason, you can’t attend, CALL them before the hearing date to see if they can make any accommodations. You DON’T want to miss this date.
- Bring a picture ID. I have actually seen people turned away because SSA couldn’t verify the person’s identity.
- Bring your CURRENT medications. It’s important that you bring the medications that you are currently taking. NOT medications that you taken in the past. Also, think about what side effects of the medications. Remember, your medications are a big part of your case.
- If you worked since your disability began, be prepared to discuss the work and bring pay stubs and tax returns if you have them.
- Complete the Enclosed Form. Make sure you return the acknowledgement form. SSA wants to know that you are definitely coming to the hearing.
- Submitting more evidence and reviewing your file. Review your file and Submit every piece of evidence that relates to your disability. Here’s where it can get tricky. If you don’t know what’s in your file, you won’t know what send. SSA is moving away from paper file so you need to request a copy of a compact disc (better make sure you have a computer you can access). You can access your file at the court using one of their conference rooms. If you have problems getting medical records, let SSA know IN ADVANCE with the name of the doctor, the address, the phone number, what they are treating you for, and what records are missing. Remember, you want to notify SSA as far in advance as possible.
- Issues I will consider. The notice will tell you what application the court will focus on so if you know you filed earlier, you may need to clarify. Some people have filed earlier. In some RARE instances, SSA may consider the earlier application but it depends. If you’re not sure if you fall into one of those rare instances, speak to a representative.
- More about the issues. Pay close attention because in this section, the court may mention particular issues that they will discuss. You need to be prepared to address these issues.
- Remarks. Sometimes a vocational expert or medical expert will appear at your hearing. The vocational expert is there to speak about the work you have done in the past and the impact of limitations on doing certain work. The medical expert will speak about the medical evidence in the file and what limitations they reveal. You will have the opportunity to ask them questions but the questions should be presented in a certain way. If you don’t what to ask, you should speak to a represent.
- Your right to request a Subpoena. In some instances, at the discretion of the judge, the judge will issue a subpoena for a person to testify or submit records. Remember, you want to ask the judge, at least, 5 days before the hearing and be specific about what you need, who the person is, and where it can be located.
- What happens at the hearing? Remember, this is YOUR day. You may have been through the process for a year or longer and you may have NEVER had a chance to talk to anyone. This is your day to discuss case, explain any conflicts in the medical evidence, tell the court about your condition, and present your reasons for why you are disabled. Everything is UNDER OATH so be prepared to tell the truth.
- The Decision. Sometimes the judge will let you know whether they believe you are disabled at the hearing but most times they will not. The written decision is VERY important because it is what gets you paid if you win or what you need to appeal if you lose. Let me be clear. EVERY court and judge is different in terms of the time it takes to make a decision and it depends heavily on the evidence in your file and the back log of the court.
I hope this post helps. If you visit my www.youtube.com/ReevesLawFirm, starting 11/21/2016, I am doing a daily Step by Step guide to understanding your Disability hearing notice. If you have any questions or if you would like a particular video, please let me know.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell what your chances are. The Appeals Council is responsible for handling all Office of Disability Adjudication appeals from around the country. Also, the Appeals Council does not inform you which judge handles your case so there is no way to know the likelihood of success.
- I have been receiving SSDI for approximately 2 years. I have now requested back child support and am wondering how my benefit will be affected. (My child has just turned 19 and is in college.)
- Any tips to get the judge to more likely approve you?
- If I get back pay for SSI, and not qualified for future monthly checks because my ssd, my ssi back pay is going to send to Public assistance. Does my Dib pay me back for the SSI which was sent to Public Assistance?
- Can you do a video about federal court process?
- When social security does the Continuing Disability Review I assume they will ask for updated medical records. Will they give my doctor the opportunity to say how treatments are going and how I am doing?
- Also, when you see Continuing Disability Review cases denied what normally are the reasons?
- Is it possible i will find out the day of my hearing if it’s in my favor?
- Would it be helpful if i have my 3 treating doctors write a letter to the Social Security Hearing judge?
- With my long history of job loss, meds, and seeing doctors, 4 to 5 times a month do you think my chances are good on winning my case?
- Can my onset date be from the 1980’s or 1990’s?
- My father has been hearing that they take away five months of your back pay. Is this true?
- How long will it take for him to receive his back pay?
- Will the back pay be in one big check?
1) I was told today when I called to check the status of my disability case. I was told that it was closed and a decision has been mailed. What does that mean? Does that mean my case has been denied? What should I except in the letter?
2) What I do if I think my representative is causing the delay in getting my disability benefits??
So, imagine this situation: You’ve applied for disability benefits. You get a bunch of forms. You’ve spoken to a few government workers. During the initial phase of the process, Social Security asks you a very simple question:
“When did your impairments prevent you from performing work?”
No problem. You give them a date and then you move on.
Now, you’ve gone through the process. It’s been months, maybe years, since you started. However, you’re getting close to the end. You’re finally there. The end is in sight. Then, suddenly, you get hit with this question:
“Would you consider amending your onset date to _____?”
Say what? The outrage! How dare you? You have stressed, pressed, and gone through all of this drama and now Social Security is asking you to change the date you became disabled? Don’t they know they are cutting into your money?
Now, before you go and burn down the Social Security office, take a step back. Most people who get offended by being asked to amend their onset date are upset because they don’t know why they are being asked to do it.
So, if you’re curious to know how to handle this situation, you should apply my W.W.E. (Why, What, and Explain) approach:
W – Why would they ask me to change my date?
1) You are going too far back.
If your case is a Disability Insurance Benefits case, the most you can get in benefits is one year prior to the date of the application. So if you applied on January 1, 2011 and you say you were disabled back on January 1, 1990, the most you will get is January 1, 2010. Also, Social Security has to look at the entire period of time so it is easier to review a shorter time.
2) You don’t have medical records that cover the period you are asking.
You bear the burden of providing that you are disabled. Therefore, you must have medical records to prove you’re disabled. Assume you indicated that your disability began on January 1, 2010 but you didn’t start getting medical treatment until August 1, 2010. How will SSA know your impairments began before August 1, 2010 if you haven’t received treatment?
3) You have earnings on your record.
The very first step of the disability benefits is to ask the question: Are you earning substantial gainful activity (in other words, are you working?)? With the exception of a few situations, SSA assumes you are not disabled if you’re working.
4) Your medical records provide a greater support of your case at a certain point
I know it’s easy to complain that you are have always been disabled. However, the reality is that your medical records may show that your condition became more severe at a particular point.
W – What benefit (or detriment) does changing my date of disability have on my application?
- Makes your application easier (i.e. faster) to approve
If the onset date covers a period of time when you worked, when you didn’t have enough evidence, or went back too far, SSA has to develop your case and give you the chance to address the issues. Sometimes, changing your date will address or eliminate those issues.
- May help your case if you have a review from the Appeals Council
Most people don’t realize that if you get approved by a judge, the judge’s decision is subjected to review. If there is an issue, it is very possible the Appeals Council may review the decision. Addressing that issue in advance may keep your case from being overturned.
- You may lose money
Depending on the date, you may end up losing back pay. As such, it’s important to know how much money you may lose.
- You may lose eligibility to a program
Under the Disability Insurance Benefits program, the date you are disabled must be before your insurance coverage expires. If you change your date to after that date of insurance coverage, you won’t be eligible for the Disability Insurance Benefits program.
E – Explain to me what happens if I agree to change the date!
I can’t emphasize this point enough. Ask, ask, and ASK again what effect changing your date of disability has on your case. The last thing you want to see is a situation where you think you know how this is going to impact you and you find out that you are wrong.
I hope today’s video is useful for you:
1) HOW DO I CONVINCE SOCIAL SECURITY TO EXTEND MY DEADLINE FOR MISSING AN APPEAL?
§404.911 Good cause for missing the deadline to request review.
(a) In determining whether you have shown that you had good cause for missing a deadline to request review we consider—
(1) What circumstances kept you from making the request on time;
(2) Whether our action misled you;
(3) Whether you did not understand the requirements of the Act resulting from amendments to the Act, other legislation, or court decisions; and
(4) Whether you had any physical, mental, educational, or linguistic limitations (including any lack of facility with the English language) which prevented you from filing a timely request or from understanding or knowing about the need to file a timely request for review.
(b) Examples of circumstances where good cause may exist include, but are not limited to, the following situations:
(1) You were seriously ill and were prevented from contacting us in person, in writing, or through a friend, relative, or other person.
(2) There was a death or serious illness in your immediate family.
(3) Important records were destroyed or damaged by fire or other accidental cause.
(4) You were trying very hard to find necessary information to support your claim but did not find the information within the stated time periods.
(5) You asked us for additional information explaining our action within the time limit, and within 60 days of receiving the explanation you requested reconsideration or a hearing, or within 30 days of receiving the explanation you requested Appeal Council review or filed a civil suit.
(6) We gave you incorrect or incomplete information about when and how to request administrative review or to file a civil suit.
(7) You did not receive notice of the determination or decision.
(8) You sent the request to another Government agency in good faith within the time limit and the request did not reach us until after the time period had expired.
(9) Unusual or unavoidable circumstances exist, including the circumstances described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section, which show that you could not have known of the need to file timely, or which prevented you from filing timely.
2) After getting my payee set up and I just would like the checks to come in my name what do i have to do to change the mind of the ssi to show them that I can take care of the money. How and what do I need to do in order to be able to be my own payee?
Welcome to another edition of Q&A: Social Security Disability Today – May 29, 2011
- How does Social Security evaluate mental disorders?
- Treatment & Medication
- The Big 4: Memory, Crowd, Stress, Confusion
- Drugs and Alcohol
- What is last date insured?
- What are the chances of being granted from an Administrative Law Judge?
- What percentage does a lawyer receive if my case is granted and will i have to pay them from my lump sum amount?
What is a Virtual Screening unit?
1) In your opinion, would this be a better outcome for a case as opposed to it being heard in the flesh in front of a Administrative Law Judge?
2) What isa Virtual Screening Unit?
3) What are the pros and cons?
4) Even at this hybrid level, even if approved, the claimant would still have the same 30-90 days wait for payment of the award?
I recently had in-depth discussion with a gentleman who asked me a very interesting question:
Should I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?
I’ve worked with hundreds of people who apply for disability benefits. Ultimately, their question is, “Do you think I have a chance to get it?”. However, this gentleman wasn’t asking about his chances. He was curious to know if it’s something he should even consider.
The simple fact of the matter is that the average person really doesn’t know the standards for Social Security disability. For those of you who are trying to figure out whether you should apply, here a few questions you need to ask yourself:
- Are you working now?
Are you working a part-time job? A full-time job? Are you working for someone who knows you and pays you to do basically nothing? Are you working every now and then? All of these questions are important because when you apply for Social Security, you’re telling the government that you can not work.
- Is the reason you’re not working due to your health?
Why are you not working? Remember, Social Security is not going to pay you because you decided to take a break from working or you decided to take care of a loved one. Your reason for not working must be due to your health.
- Has your health kept you out of work for 12 months (or do you expect it to keep you out of work for 12 months)?
What health conditions have kept you from working? It’s important to remember the condition must be one that has lasted 12 months or more. You can’t say your back hurt for two months and then got better and then your feet hurt for 3 months and got better (this is called ‘boot strapping’). Remember, your health condition(s) (mental, physical, or a combination of both) has to keep you out of work for more than 12 months (or it is expected to keep you out of work for 12 months).
- Are you getting treated for your health problems?
I can’t stress this point enough. You bear the burden of proving that you are disabled. Therefore, you must go to the doctor and get treatment to support your claim that you are disabled.
- What can you do despite your limitations?
Ultimately, this is the question on which you really should be focusing. Too many times people just focus on the diagnosis and think that, alone, is enough to let someone know they are disabled. For instance, I’ve had people say one of the reasons they are disabled is due to high blood pressure. Well, I have high blood pressure and I don’t have any symptoms. You have to be able to explain how your disability limits you in your ability to function and your daily activities.
- Can you do anything you used to do in the last 15 years?
After you figure out your limitations, you need to look at your past jobs and ask yourself, “With my health conditions, can I do anything I used to do?”. If the answer is ”No”, then you need to ask yourself “Why?”. You, also, need to be prepared to explain why your health conditions keep you from doing any of your past work.
- Can you do any other type of work?
If you can do any other type of work, in the eyes of the Social Security Administration, you are not disabled. Remember, it’s not , ”What other type of work you would like do?”. It’s, “What other type of work can you do?”. The Social Security Administration is not looking at the economy or what you want to do. They focus on what you can do.
Obtaining Social Security disability benefits can be a difficult and confusing process. Hopefully, these questions can help you determine if applying for Social Security is the answer to your problems.