Disability Associates discuss some basic facts that you should know when preparing for a disability hearing.

1. Gathering recent medical records – Your initial request for a disability hearing will be submitted to the Social Security office, at which point the case is transferred to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Once your case reaches ODAR, it must be assigned to a judge who will then schedule the case for hearing. While waiting for a hearing to be scheduled, it is imperative that you maintain and gather all necessary medical records. Depending on when your case is scheduled, all records that were submitted with your initial request may be older than 90 days and will not be accepted by SSA standards. Working with an experienced disability attorney will help ensure that all records will be requested and sent in a timely manner.

2. Obtaining a statement from your doctor – If you have retained a disability attorney to help with your case, they may attempt to get a medical source statement from your doctor. At your hearing this statement will carry evidential weight as a judge will want to review the medical opinion from your treating physician. Keep in mind that this statement should provide an objective and detailed review of your condition.

3. Whether or not to have a witness – Witnesses are allowed at a disability hearing. However, speaking with a knowledgeable disability attorney will better gauge the necessity of a witness. A disability claim is based on objective evidence such as your medical records and your work history. Testimony from a witness may not provide the necessary evidence to aid in the decision making process.

4. What is the decision making process – The decision process in most respects is the same at the hearing level as at the application level. The qualifications and requirements for receiving benefits does not change. At all levels, the disability examiner or judge will approve or deny your claim based on the evidence provided.

Approval of your claim is generally made in two separate ways. The first method is when medical evidence shows that you have a physical or mental medical condition that meets the criteria outlined in the Social Security impairments list. Listing approvals happen in very few cases. Most often, if a case is approved it’s more likely that the decision-maker found that the person had functional limitations that were severe enough that gainful and substantial employment were near impossible.

5. Should I have a lawyer at my hearing – You are not required to have representation at any level of the process. However, for a variety of reasons, it is best to retain a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to attend the hearing with you. In some instances a judges will advise those who show up unrepresented that their hearing may be rescheduled if they would like additional time to locate a disability attorney.

Questions about your upcoming disability hearing? At Disability Associates we have experience with all aspects of the disability claim process and can assist you with all of your needs.