If your claim has been denied at the Reconsideration Level, you can request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This can be done online. As with an appeal to the Reconsideration Level, a request for hearing with an ALJ must take place within 60 days of receipt of notice of the reconsideration denial. Approximately 46% of claimants were determined to be disabled by ALJ's in fiscal year 2020, but the results vary by hearing office. In the Baltimore hearing office in fiscal year 2020, ALJ's found around 63% of claimants to be disabled.
When will I have my hearing?
There is a lengthy wait to obtain a hearing, and it can take an additional 2 to 3 months after the hearing to receive a decision from an ALJ. As with ALJ approval rates, the length of time it takes to receive a decision from the ALJ can vary by hearing office. For example, in fiscal year 2020, the average wait time for a hearing at the Cleveland, Ohio hearing office was 7 months, while it took an average of 17 months to receive a hearing at the Fresno, California hearing office. In the Cleveland hearing office, it took an average of 323 days (almost 11 months) from the day the claimant requested a hearing to the day an actual decision was received, while this process took an average of 617 days (over 20 months) for a claimant in the Fresno hearing office. Those numbers for the Baltimore hearing office are 11 months and 415 days (almost 14 months), respectively.
What happens at the hearing?
The number of individuals present at a hearing can vary, but it generally includes the ALJ, the claimant, a hearing reporter who provides technical assistance and ensures that there is a working recording of the hearing, and a vocational expert. The ALJ may also determine that testimony from an independent medical expert is necessary. In addition, if applicable, a claimant's representative will also be present at the hearing. The claimant is also able to request that additional witnesses testify at the hearing on one's behalf.
An ALJ is able to hear testimony, rule on questions of evidence, and make findings of fact. Hearings are held under oath and recorded, but it is an informal process. Currently, due to COVID-19, hearings are being held over the phone or through an online video hearing.
During the hearing, an ALJ may choose to question you regarding your impairments and their effects on your daily living. Alternatively, the ALJ might prefer to have this questioning be performed by your representative. Some examples of standard questions asked at a hearing include:
- Requesting that you describe a standard day in your life.
- How much can you lift or carry? How long are you able to sit, stand or walk at one time and in an 8-hour workday? For mental impairments - are you able to spend time with others or go out in public? Do you have difficulty concentrating?
- Can you describe your medical treatment history? An ALJ might want to know dates that treatment took place, as well as any reasons a claimant might have a lapse in treatment.
- Additionally, an ALJ might choose to ask you to describe past work you have performed. This will be for purposes of Step 4 and Step 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process.
Contact The Moss Disability Group
The Hearing Level is a crucial part of the disability application process. The largest percentage of claims are approved in this stage. A knowledgeable attorney is able to use Social Security rules and regulations to argue persuasively on your behalf, both in a pre-hearing Representative Brief and in front of an ALJ during the hearing.
Aaron Moss, the founder of The Moss Disability Group, is a former attorney advisor for the Social Security Administration, where he wrote more than 650 disability decisions for ALJ's nationwide. Aaron also had a detail at the Appeals Council, where he reviewed more than 150 ALJ decisions and provided recommendations to Appeals Officers and Administrative Appeals Judges. Contact The Moss Disability Group to see if we can help you receive the disability you deserve.
- You can file a request for hearing before an ALJ online.
- ALJ's determined that approximately 46% of claimants in fiscal year 2020 were disabled. However, these numbers can vary greatly by hearing office. ALJ's in the Baltimore hearing office determined that approximately 63% of claimants in fiscal year 2020 were disabled.
- The ALJ stage can be lengthy and varies by hearing office. In fiscal year 2020, claimants in the Baltimore hearing office had to wait around 11 months to receive a hearing and approximately an additional 3 months to receive the ALJ's decision.
- It is important to have a knowledgeable representative present your case persuasively in front of the ALJ.