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What should I know about ALJ hearings if I'm denied SSD benefits?

When an Ohioan has an injury or illness and is seeking Social Security disability benefits, it is not unusual for the claim to be denied. The good news is that appealing the case can be successful and the applicant can eventually be approved. One part of an appeal is a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Understanding all the aspects of an ALJ hearing can help to ensure adequate preparedness.

Prior to the hearing, the applicant and the legal representative have the right to examine the evidence in the case file and provide new evidence to bolster the case. The ALJ will consider new evidence, but it must be submitted as soon as possible. While at the hearing, the ALJ will explain the issues in the case and might ask questions of the applicant and witnesses. The applicant can bring witnesses and the ALJ might ask a doctor or a vocational expert to come and testify. Once all the evidence has been submitted and the witnesses have been heard, the ALJ will study the case and decide on it.

The applicant is not required to appear at the hearing, but the Social Security Administration must be informed of this at the time the hearing is requested. Reasons must be given why the applicant will not appear. The ALJ will be asked to decide on the case based on the information in the file and new evidence. Barring a viable reason why the applicant cannot appear, it is wise to go to the hearing. The SSA might pay for travel expenses for the ALJ hearing if it is more than 75 miles from the person's home or office. Such issues as transportation expenses or expenses for driving can be paid. In some instances, the SSA might even pay for meals, lodging and taxi service, but this must be approved by the ALJ prior to the hearing.

If the ALJ denies the claim, the applicant can still request an Appeals Council Review. If that is denied, then the case can be brought to federal court. For people who had their initial application denied, sought reconsideration and had it denied again, the ALJ is an alternative to lay out the case in front of a judge to possibly receive benefits. When applying and appealing for SSD benefits, it is imperative to have experienced legal assistance. A lawyer who understands how to apply for and appeal a Social Security disability case should be contacted from the start.

Source: ssa.gov, "Your Right to an Administrative Law Judge Hearing and Appeals Council Review of Your Social Security Case," accessed on Feb. 12, 2018

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