Unfortunately, nearly half of Social Security Disability claims are denied at the initial application. The high rate of these denials leaves many Marylanders suffering severe injuries without benefits. As a threshold question, a person qualifies for benefits when they have either been out of work for one year due to a medical condition, or a doctor indicates they will be out of work for the foreseeable year. That considered, a Social Security administrator may still deny a person's Claim.
Claimants always have the option to appeal a denied claim. They can request that the Social Security Administration reconsider their claim. Many times, this is the only step individuals must complete. Social Security may approve a denied claim after the reconsideration.
If Social Security denies the Claim again, a Claimant must request a hearing to have the Claim heard before an administrative law judge.
For many people, even thinking about attending a hearing is stressful. Knowing the details of the hearing can help individuals reduce that stress and prepare for what lies ahead.
What happens at the hearing?
The appeals hearing is similar to any other hearing, in that:
- The administrative law judge questions the individual about their claim
- The individual has the right to an attorney
- Medical records related to the individual's condition are reviewed
- Witnesses may be called to testify
- A vocational expert is called by Social Security to testify the Claimant's ability to find work
How to prepare for the hearing
Effective self-advocacy in the hearing boils down to how each individual prepares. Some helpful guidelines for preparation include:
- Organizing medical records: The court will ask about the Claimant's medical condition. It can be beneficial to collect and review these records before the hearing.
- Describing the effects of the injury: The Claimant should explain precisely how the injury affects their daily life. This can include their current medical treatment, as well as the adjustments they and their family made because of the injury.
- Explaining job requirements: A Claimant should be able to list the duties of their position and what they need to do to complete those duties. Explaining how the injury prevents them from performing their job is essential.
It is necessary for an injured person to prove that their injury meets the SSA's definition of a disability to obtain benefits. And the employee's ability to articulate how the injury changed their life can make all the difference in their appeal.