Knowing that you are going to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge usually brings about two reactions in our clients: (1) they are thrilled that their case will finally be heard, because the wait for a hearing can take more than a year; and (2) they are nervous because they do not know what to expect, and have usually not had to testify under oath while being questioned by a judge.
How do we help our clients stay as relaxed as possible, so they can focus on providing the most helpful responses to the judge during the hearing? It’s all in the preparation, and the preparation begins months before the hearing. With the right preparation, the hearing may not be what most of us would call “enjoyable,” but our clients will know what to expect, from how the court room is set up, to the types of questions they will have to answer, and as a result, they will be effective witnesses for themselves.
When most clients come to us for help, they’ve received a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) saying that their application for social security disability benefits has been denied, but that they can appeal that denial if they act within 60 days. The first step in that process is to tell the SSA that you are requesting that an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) review the decision denying your benefits. Once you do that, you are placed in line for a hearing, at which the ALJ will examine all of the medical records that have been provided to the SSA concerning your disabilities—physical and/or psychological. The reality is that a competent ALJ will have familiarized him or herself with those records before the hearing, which is designed to focus on you, the person applying for benefits.
While you are waiting for your hearing to be scheduled, we are laying the groundwork for your success, by collecting all the medical records that the ALJ will need to examine in order to determine your eligibility for benefits, and providing them to the SSA ahead of the hearing date. After our initial meeting with you, we may identify additional types of medical specialists for you to consult with if your disabilities have not been properly documented and treated. We will remain in regular contact with you, so that we know if and when you have changed medical providers, or have seen a new one, so that we can update the SSA with your most up-to-date records of care. And then, in the period leading up to your hearing, we will meet, usually in person, to discuss the hearing itself. By the time you enter the hearing facility with one of our experienced attorneys, you will know what the hearing room will look like, how long the hearing will take (approximately), which questions you will be asked, and how best to answer each one. You will also know about any witness the ALJ may call during the hearing, and the topic he or she will testify about. In sum, we help you put your best foot forward, so that your chances of prevailing at your hearing are as strong as possible.