Some people wait more than a year to receive their day in court and to be scheduled for a Social Security Disability hearing. While two-thirds of appeals are won at the hearing stage of the disability claim process, you need to make sure you do everything you can to help turn the tables in your favor. If you are going through the disability appeals process and want to ensure the best chances of winning your appeal, make sure that you take the following advice into consideration when you arrive at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.
Hire a Qualified Disability Lawyer or Advocate
First and foremost, make sure you have a qualified disability lawyer representing you at the hearing stage of your appeal. While the SSA does allow you to represent yourself, it's not in your best interest to do so. Statistics show that applicants who have legal representation at a disability hearing are more likely to be awarded benefits than those who do not. Your lawyer can help prepare you for your hearing and will ensure that your case is presented properly before the Administrative Law Judge.
Do Whatever It Takes to Get There
You need to do everything within your power to show up for your disability hearing, and make sure you show up on time. While you can, in some cases, postpone your disability hearing if you have a very good reason, you should do everything you can to make it to your hearing on the scheduled day. If you don't show up at all and do not have a good reason for your failure to appear, you may lose your chance of reversing the SSA's decision to deny your disability benefits.
Understand That Appearances Matter
You don't have to show up to your disability hearing attired in the finest Gucci suit, but you do have to appear clean and well-groomed. If you show up in torn jeans and a dirty old t-shirt, the Administrative Law Judge isn't going to appreciate it and may think it shows a lack of respect for the court that is hearing your case.
In addition to your physical appearance, you will need to show proper respect to the ALJ who is reviewing your appeal. When addressing the judge, do so civilly. There is never any reason to become verbally abusive or rude when speaking at your hearing and doing so may result in a denial of your appeal.
Be Familiar with Your Case and Your Medical Records
When working with a disability attorney, many applicants make the mistake of assuming that they do not need to stay abreast of the information included in their disability claim or fail to review the records that have been provided to the SSA. Remember, your lawyer is there to represent the legal aspects of your claim. You are the one who knows the most about your condition and how it pertains to your inability to work. You need to know what medical evidence is being provided to the Administrative Law Judge who will be hearing your case so that you can make sure nothing is accidentally left out of your disability application file.
Keep in Contact with Your Lawyer
Chances are that your attorney is handling quite a few Social Security Disability cases. Make sure yours does not fall through the cracks. Stay in contact with your attorney and make sure that he or she has everything needed to represent you properly at your hearing. The last thing you want to do is show up at your hearing, only to find out that you have not provided your attorney with crucial information or documentation that may be necessary to prove your disability claim.
Do Not Minimize the Effects of Your Disability
Pride has no place in the courtroom, and especially not during your disability hearing. While you should never over-exaggerate your disability, you should not downplay it either. Be very specific about how your disability prevents you from performing work-related activities. The people in the courtroom are not there to judge you. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether or not you can work due to the disability from which you are suffering. If you try to downplay the severity of your condition, you may actually cause yourself to lose your disability case. A vocational expert may also provide testify to offer insight regarding your transferability of skills.
Remember, it is not uncommon for an applicant to wait as long as two years to receive their day in court. Your chances of being awarded disability benefits are highest during the hearing stage of the appeal process. Make sure you follow the above advice in order to increase your chances of a favorable hearing outcome.