If your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim is denied, your first step is to request a reconsideration. If the reconsideration is denied, you have 60 days to ask for an administrative hearing (or “disability hearing”) with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
How long it takes to get this hearing will depend on how many cases are ahead of you, but you should anticipate a lengthy wait. It isn’t uncommon to go months or even a year before your hearing date — but you will be notified in advance when it comes closer. Hearings can be held remotely via videoconference or in person, depending on the situation.
Although these hearings are relatively short – usually under an hour – it’s essential to be prepared. There will likely be neutral witnesses, such as a doctor and vocational expert, who will provide testimony. While they can’t testify to your individual situation, they can discuss how the condition you have limits and does not limit your ability to work. You and your attorney have the opportunity to speak and to question these witnesses, which is the point at which most attorneys work hard to dismantle the government’s reason for denying your benefits.
Who can be an ALJ?
People often wonder about the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who presides over their hearing and makes the decision that determines whether they receive SSDI benefits. Are they really judges? Who do they work for? How do you know they will be fair?
These judges work for the federal government. However, they are required to be impartial adjudicators. To become an ALJ, a person must be licensed to practice law and they must also have at least seven years of experience as a licensed attorney in administrative law or litigation.
When the hearing is over, the ALJ will review the evidence and testimony and provide a written decision. If the decision isn’t in your favor, you have the option of appealing the decision to the SSA Appeals Council.
Having an experienced attorney help you prepare for the hearing and represent you in the hearing can help you feel more comfortable and confident about the appeal. More importantly, they can improve your chances of getting the disability benefits you need.