You have retained our firm to appeal a decision denying your Request for Reconsideration and have asked that we represent you at the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This is a brief summary of the steps that will happen at this stage of the appeal process.
After your file arrives at the hearing office, your case may be reviewed to determine if a favorable decision can be reached without holding a hearing. A Senior Advising Attorney com-pletes this review. If the reviewer is not convinced of your disability at this point, your case waits its turn to be prepared and scheduled for a hearing. Sometimes, we can secure an *on the record* decision in unusual cases, but this does not happen very often. In either case, not hav-ing an early decision is not a comment or indicative of the outcome of your case.
Your file is prepared, reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge, and then scheduled for a hearing. Because of the large number of cases the hearing office receives each month, this process can take up to 18 months to two year from the filing of your Request. Social Security is not a quick financial fix. This process may require you to make hard financial choices including requesting public assistance if warranted. We will do everything to bring your case to an early hearing, but we do not have control over most of the scheduling.
After the Case is ready for Hearing
After your case is prepared for hearing, we will be notified that your file is ready to be reviewed. We can access online your file prior to the hearing and we will evaluate your case, gather additional evidence, and prepare your case for hearing. During this time, we will contin-ue to meet about every 90 days or as conditions warrant. You need to continue to treat with your doctors and, from time to time, we will ask you to update your medical records.
There are often long periods of time when we will not hear anything from Social Securi-ty. Rest assured, we will notify you of anything that we do hear, both at this level and later, after the ALJ*s decision is issued. Calling us just to ask if we have *heard anything* will not be productive as it takes time from your case and others.
Social Security hearings are similar to court proceedings with the rules of evidence re-laxed. An Administrative Law Judge conducts the hearing. When you testify, you will be place under oath, or allowed to affirm if there are personal or religious restrictions on oath taking.
Other individuals, such as vocational and/or medical experts may be present to testify at your hearing. They will have reviewed the file evidence and are there to provide further in-put if the ALJ requests.
You also have the right to have witnesses present at the hearing. Although, due to limited time, you may bring a maximum of only 1 * 2 witnesses. This is something we can discuss prior to hearing. Generally, the use of witnesses is limited and we will re-view your case with you to decide if they are needed.
At the Hearing
At the hearing, we will ask questions of you and make legal arguments for your case. It is possible that the ALJ may ask most of the questions. This is often the case when the ALJ wants to zero in on a specific aspect of your case. It does not indicate anything one way or the other.
After the hearing is concluded, we may present a written or oral argument about the facts of your case. This will depend on the circumstances at the end of the hearing.
The ALJ will make a decision after the hearing (sometimes 2 * 4 months) unless addi-tional evidence is required. The ALJ may request a supplement hearing if needed. The ALJ*s decision will not be issued until all records, examinations, consultations, etc. have been submit-ted.
In summary, you can expect to wait approximately 18-24 months from the time you file your Request for Hearing until you actually have a hearing. You can expect to wait an addition-al 2 to 4 months before you will receive a copy of the ALJ*s decision in the mail.
If a favorable decision has been filed, it takes approximately one month for the Social Security Administration to start monthly payments and anywhere from 2 * 6 months for the back due benefits to be paid. It is not unusual to receive the money before you receive a letter explaining how they came up with that figure. The reason for this is due to the check being is-sued from one office and the letter of explanation being issued from another.
It is imperative that you contact our office as soon as you receive any money so we can monitor the amounts to make sure the Social Security Administration has the correct calculations.
In addition, since there are two programs (DIB and SSI), they will independently send you separate letters of explanation and attorney fee authorizations. They may come at different times and each refers to a different part of your award. They need to be evaluated together rather than separately.
If the decision is unfavorable, we will contact you by mail to advise you of your right to appeal.
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