Monday, August 1, 2011

So You Filed an Appeal for a Hearing Before a Judge in San Francisco. Now What?

You applied for disability benefits in San Francisco and were denied. You asked the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reconsider their decision and you were denied again. Do you give up? The truth is that the majority of claims for disability are denied at the preliminary stages. Your chances of winning at a hearing are significantly higher than at the previous stages. Unfortunately, the wait for a hearing can take up to two years in some states.

What should I do first?

Hire an experienced attorney. Once you file an appeal, SSA will stop requesting evidence for your claim. This means that the only evidence on your claim is the same evidence they used to deny you. An attorney can help you to continue building evidence while you wait for your hearing.

As soon as you are denied, begin keeping a journal of when you go to the doctor and which doctors you see. This information will help your attorney to gather all of the medical evidence possible.

Why is the wait so long?

The amount of time you must wait to have a hearing with a judge depends on the number of people who are also filing appeals in your area. This number can be in the thousands. The hearing office tends to process the cases in the order in which they are received and there are a limited number of judges to conduct hearings. Of course the wait is very frustrating, but it allows time for more evidence to be added to your claim.

Is there any way to speed the process up?

Many people hear rumors about getting hearings in just a matter of months. The truth is, when you’re waiting for a hearing with a judge, there are really only two ways to speed the process up.

1) Dire Need – The Social Security Administration understands that by being disabled and unable to work, it is difficult to make ends meet. If you receive a foreclosure notice, eviction notice or utilities shut-off notice, the hearing office may place your claim ahead of others. Be sure to provide documentation of this.

2) On-the-Record Decision – If a hearing office reviews your claim and believes that it can be awarded without needing a hearing, then they can issue a favorable decision “on the record”. In order for this to be possible, there needs to be supportive evidence in your file.

Can I have people who know my disability write letters to the judge for me?

People often ask if they can have others send letters to the judge on their behalf. Statements from outside parties are always accepted, however, the judge will not consider them as heavily as your medical records. At your hearing, the judge can accept testimony from relatives or friends but the judge may hear them with some degree of skepticism. The best person to write a letter for you would be your doctor.

What if my doctor does not think I am disabled?

Doctors are often cautious about using the word “disabled” for different reasons. If your doctor is not willing to fill out forms on your behalf, it does not mean that you are not disabled. Doctors do not always know how your condition affects you on a daily basis or at home. You do not have to pressure your doctor to agree with you about your disability. Simply make sure that your doctor is aware of your problems and the extent of your limitations.

If you doctor truly does not believe you are disabled and refuses to describe the effects of you disability in your medical records, you may want to look for a different doctor. Not all doctors agree about who is disabled or what a disability is. It is important for you to have a good relationship with your doctor throughout this process. If you are not satisfied with the quality of medical care you are receiving, seek help elsewhere.

With disability processing times often at well over a year, it is essential that you ensure your claim is being processed correctly. Hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer to handle your case will guarantee that no mistakes are made and no further delays are placed on your case. To find out more, visit us at

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