SSA hearings are fairly informal events. Usually, such hearings are conducted at OHA offices (not a courtroom) where the only people present include the Judge (an ALJ, or administrative law judge), the claimant, the claimant's representative-if they have chosen to retain one-and medical experts chosen by the Judge.
AlJ hearings, as they are commonly known, usually last no more than an hour and sometimes only take 15 minutes. From any standpoint, this is not an extraordinary amount of time. Nevertheless, the time in which it takes to hold a hearing is of paramount importance to the person trying to win their benefits.
As very many claimants for benefits discover, winning can make the difference between having a stable monthly income or living a life of uncertainty as to what will happen next. It can even make the difference between having a home and being homeless. It is not at all uncommon to find, when a case has dragged on for too long, that a claimant is being threatened with eviction from their home or foreclosure on their property.
The meeting before a judge is typically the single most important event that will occur in the process. It is a one hour event that will make or break a case. And for this reason, it should be prepared for properly.
Unfortunately, 99% of all claimants will not have the skills or knowledge necessary to properly prepare-AND WIN-a case. Therefore, even though it may not be absolutely necessary to have a representative before the hearing level (for example, at the initial claim and reconsideration levels) it is vital to have representation at the time of the hearing.
Here are some things to keep in mind if it looks as though you will have to go to before an ALJ: 1. go to the hearing. Believe it or not, some people don't attend their own hearings. Obviously, this is a huge mistake and you should not expect a judge to give you full consideration if you don't show up at your own hearing. 2. Don't be late for your appointment. This is something that most judges have little tolerance for. And the same reasoning applies: if you can't be on time for your own hearing, the judge can only conclude that it is not that important to you. 3. Be prepared. That is, be sure either you or your advocate has gotten and submitted to the judge copies of all your recent medical records. In most cases, you can't win a case without all the records, especially the most recent records being submitted.
Follow these tips and you can maximize your chance of being successful on an SSA benefits claims.
About the author:
The author of this article is Timothy Moore, who, in addition to being a former food stamp caseworker, medicaid caseworker and AFDC caseworker, is a former disability claims examiner. He publishes information at SocialSecurity Disability Tips and Secrets which features a helpful and informative Social Security Disability faq
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