Who Can Attend Disability Hearings With Me?
Applying for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can be challenging and stressful. The application process is incredibly bureaucratic, and applicants often worry that a single misplaced word can rob them of the benefits they would otherwise be eligible to collect. Going through the process while already dealing with a disabling illness or injury is more than any one person needs to handle on their own. Thankfully, you have the right to have certain parties attend your hearings with you. Those parties can even help you obtain your disability benefits. To learn about the parties who may attend your disability hearings, read on. For help applying for SSDI or SSI benefits, or to appeal a disability benefits denial, call a knowledgeable California Social Security Disability benefits attorney.
The Administrative Law Judge Hearing
Over 60 percent of all claims for Social Security benefits are initially denied. In order to successfully obtain benefits, many applicants need to go through the appeals process.
The initial step for appealing a denial is to obtain a reconsideration review. Reconsideration is done just on the papers–the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at the documents filed as part of your disability claim. There will be no hearing at this stage.
If your claim is still denied after reconsideration, however, then you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The hearing can be conducted based entirely on evidence already submitted to the record thus far, with the ALJ taking a fresh look. If you so choose, however, you can appear in person at the hearing, along with a representative, and present additional evidence.
While you can legally represent yourself throughout the appeals process, it’s advisable to appoint a representative to argue on your behalf. Your representative can be a Social Security appeals attorney who will help you draft your application, file your appeal, and build your case for your appeals. Your attorney can serve as your representative at the hearing, submitting evidence and questioning witnesses on your behalf. There are a number of specific processes and procedures that must be followed in order to testify, submit evidence, and present witnesses, with which your attorney can help.
Should you so choose, you can instead appoint a social worker, a professional disability representative, or even a trusted family member as your representative. However, it’s generally advisable to retain a disability benefits attorney to give you the best chance at securing benefits. In fact, a study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that applicants with representatives are three times more likely to be successful in obtaining benefits.
Witnesses Can Attend on Your Behalf
The hearing may be limited to you, your representative, a judicial staff member, and the ALJ. However, if you so desire (and your attorney agrees that it’s advisable to do so), you can bring witnesses to testify on your behalf at the hearing. Witnesses can include your treating physician, vocational experts, and other medical experts who can testify about your medical condition, the extent of your disability, and whether and when you might be able to return to work. The SSA can also present its own experts, whom your attorney can question.
Talk to your disability benefits lawyer about your pending hearing, how best to prepare, and who you might want to bring with you. Presenting the right evidence and the strongest witnesses can be the key difference between obtaining benefits and being left on your own with medical bills and limited sources of income.
Call for Help Collecting the California Disability Benefits You Need
For help obtaining disability benefits or appealing a disability benefits denial in Southern California or statewide, call the thorough and accomplished Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSDI/SSI) attorneys of Drake & Drake at 818-624-4695.