As disability lawyers in Charlotte, NC, we think it’s important for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claimants to recognize the signs of a good SSDI hearing. Most SSDI claims progress to the hearing stage after failing to be approved at earlier stages in the appeals process. First, let’s review the stages of an SSDI claim.
The Stages of an SSDI Claim
Stage One: Initial Application. SSDI claimants begin the process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits by submitting an initial application for SSDI benefits. This application can be submitted in person at a local Social Security hearing office, over the phone or online. Some Charlotte disability lawyers encourage claimants to apply on their own initially, but at Collins Price, we will help most claimants file initial applications.
Stage Two: Request for Reconsideration. If an initial application is denied (and most are), the SSDI claimant will need to file a ‘Request for Reconsideration’ with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Disabled claimants must file their appeal within 60 days of receiving the denial. Once the request is received, Social Security reviews your claim again.
Stage Three: Hearing. If your claim is denied at Reconsideration (and most are), it will progress to the SSDI hearing stage. The good news is that this is the stage where most Social Security disability claims are approved. Once again, you have 60 days from the date of Reconsideration denial to file a ‘Request for Hearing.”
Stage Four: Appeals Council. If your claim is denied at hearing, you can appeal the decision a final time before the Appeals Council, but it is unlikely that the Appeals Council will overturn the ALJ’s decision at hearing.
Signs You Won Your SSDI Hearing
#1: The Judge doesn’t ask a lot of questions about your medical impairments. In most hearings, you can expect the ALJ to ask you detailed questions about your impairments. If they don’t, this could be a good sign that the ALJ has sufficient medical evidence to make a favorable decision.
#2: The Judge is knowledgeable about your claim. ALJ’s are unique. Some study claims in detail before your hearing, some just read the disability lawyer’s brief. We always think it’s an excellent sign when the ALJ is knowledgeable about your claim during a hearing. That often means they have been able to easily digest the medical evidence supporting your impairments and inability to work.
#3: The Judge doesn’t involve a vocational expert. During your hearing, a Social Security vocational expert (VE) will participate. A VE is an individual trained in all aspects of the labor market. During a SSDI hearing, the Judge often calls upon the VE if there are questions about your impairments preventing you from working. In some hearings, ALJ’s do not engage VE’s with questions. In our experience as Charlotte Social Security Disability Lawyers, this often means the Judge believes the existing medical evidence is substantial and supports a finding of ‘disabled.’
#4: The vocational expert’s testimony supports your disability claim. It’s not a bad sign when the Judge calls upon a VE for testimony. In these instances, should the VE provide supportive testimony indicating that you cannot perform work activity, this is a good sign your hearing will be successful.
#5: Your Disability Lawyer expresses confidence after the hearing. Our practice at Collins Price is to avoid any kind of prediction with regard to a disability hearing. But, like other experienced disability lawyers, we generally know when a hearing has gone well. And, we have experience working with local Judges. Once the hearing is complete, and if it has gone well, your disability lawyer will generally express that to you. And, rarely, when a hearing goes really well, a Judge will indicate their intention to approve your claim during the hearing itself.
If you are filing for SSDI or have been recently denied, give us a call today. We’d be happy to provide you with a free consultation on your claim.