The unfortunate reality is that, most people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits are denied the first time around. This means that most people end up appealing the decision. However, it will take two separate levels of appeal before they get to have a disability hearing before a judge, which can take nearly a year to get scheduled. If it takes that much to get a hearing, it is certainly important to be prepared. The most important thing you will need, in preparing for a disability hearing, is medical evidence of your disability.
Obtain current, updated medical records
The most important part of preparing for your disability hearing is to gather any additional medical records, so that when you arrive at your hearing, you can present the most recent medical records that exist. Be sure that you do not have any gaps in your medical documentation.
In most situations, the Social Security Administration will not obtain additional medical records for you, before your hearing. Although the initial claims examiner will obtain updated records when your claim is first evaluated, when your case file is transferred to the hearing office, all “case development” will usually cease. That means, no further records will be obtained on your behalf and no further review will be conducted.
Get a statement from your physician
An essential part of your medical evidence is your physician’s medical opinion. In order to adequately prepare for your disability hearing, it is crucial that you obtain supportive statements from the physicians who treated you in the past. To be effective, your physician should write a detailed “medical source statement” explaining in detail the work activities you are unable to do. That is referred to as your functional limitations. For example, if you are unable to sit or stand longer than 20 minutes, or unable to lift more than 20 lbs., those limitations need to be explained.
Review your case file before the hearing
You are allowed to request your entire case file from Social Security, before your hearing. You should take advantage of this opportunity and review your file to determine whether there are any missing medical records or mistakes in the claims examiner’s reasons for denying you benefits. Reviewing your file also helps you prepare arguments ahead of time, as to why Social Security has incorrectly denied you benefits.
Seek the advice and representation of a disability attorney
When you are represented at your hearing by a disability attorney, your lawyer will take care of requesting and submitting your most recent medical records and medical source statements. All you will need to do is simply arrive at the hearing. Your attorney should also prepare you for questioning by the Administrative Law Judge.
If you have questions regarding disability hearings, or any other social security disability concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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