SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
You're probably reading this because Social Security has denied your claim for disability. You need help, but don't know where to turn. You don't know what to do. Let me explain how I handle disability appeals.
When you are first denied Disability, you will receive a letter from the Administration. It is entitled "Notice of Disapproved Claim." Do not lose it. When I first meet a client, I review it with him or her. It tells me how to win your case.
Request for Reconsideration
Your appeal from the Notice of Disapproved Claim is called a "Request for Reconsideration." It is very important to win at that level. Most Representatives view "Reconsideration" as a "road bump" to their road to a Hearing. Not many win cases at the Reconsideration level. They reason that the same people who determined you weren't disabled will be the same ones reconsidering your claim. Why would they change their mind? The answer to that question is what wins your case.
Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
Many Representatives believe your best chance of winning is at the Hearing level. Even if true, it takes approximately 20 months to get to your Hearing, and it may take months more to get your decision, favorable or otherwise. By winning at the Reconsideration level, you won't have to wait two years. You win in 2 months, or so. However, if Reconsideration is unsuccessful, the next step is an Administrative Hearing.
Your Hearing will be in a small courtroom not much bigger than a living room. Hearings are scheduled to take between 30 minutes to an hour. This is an Administrative Hearing. There will not be an attorney for Social Security. You will not be cross-examined. Attending will be a Federal Judge, a court reporter, you, your attorney, and maybe a vocational expert. The expert may testify by phone. Because Social Security is a form-oriented area of law, your witnesses will provide their testimony through Adult Function Reports provided by the Administration. Some Hearings are done by video, the Judge being in another city or State. In those, you and your attorney will appear at a local hearing office. Your Judge will likely be knowledgeable about your claim. It has been my experience that they are well prepared and have read whatever medical records are in your file. The Judge may require your attorney to prepare and file a Brief. He or she wants to hear from your attorney and you. You should expect to answer his or her questions.
Winning before Your Hearing
I don't want to wait for a Hearing. I want to win your case as soon as possible. One method is called an "On-The-Record Review" (OTR). The Administration may review your case before a Hearing. If sufficient evidence of disability can be provided to ODAR, you might receive a favorable decision without having a Hearing. The Administration has a huge backlog of cases. They want to resolve cases as quickly as possible, so this is an opportunity for the Courts to reduce their backlog. There is no Form for an OTR. I often make a written OTR request with a brief and additional evidence as to why my client's claim should be approved.
ODAR may allow you an expedited Hearing. That would let you have a Hearing in weeks or months. Disabled Veterans often are allowed expedited hearings. Others may qualify for an expedited hearing if they are in "dire need." Frankly, every disability client I have is in dire need as the phrase is commonly understood. However, ODAR has a tighter definition. It requires dire circumstances such as being evicted from one's home, being foreclosed upon, notices that your power will be cut off, and so forth. There is no social security form for a dire need statement. I usually send a letter explaining my client's "dire need" with my client's statement and documentation.
Should I Have an Attorney?
Your odds of winning are greater when you have an experienced, skilled attorney handling your case.
How Do I Choose My Representative?
My advice is NOT to hire a TV lawyer. It has been my experience that TV law firms assign a paralegal to handle their clients' cases. Some never see or meet the paralegal or attorney until the day of Hearing. I have seen representatives meet their clients for the first time, minutes before the hearing,in the waiting room at the courthouse. TV is where you find good soap operas, zombie movies, and Geckos that sell insurance. Don't expect Denny Crane, Matlock, or Perry Mason to answer when you call the phone number in a commercial. I suggest you meet your attorney before hiring him or her. Hire someone in whom you have confidence.
Good luck with your claim.
THE DAWSON LAW FIRM, PC
534 East King Street * King, N.C. 27021