So you’ve filed a claim for Social Security disability benefits and have been denied twice. You’re probably wondering what next? Thinking you’re not disabled because the Social Security Administration (SSA) has denied your claim twice could not be further from the truth. Although SSA has denied your claim for disability benefits, that denial actually has nothing to do with the strength of your claim. It simply means there is not enough evidence for them to approve your disability claim. All hope is not lost.
If you’ve been denied twice, the next step is to file a request for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.
You’ve probably already been waiting approximately six to eight months. When you put in a request for a hearing it usually takes another 10-12 months for the hearing office to schedule a hearing. At this point you are frustrated, have no money to speak of and more than likely have tapped out your friends and family regarding the amount of money they will loan you. Usually, my clients will ask me, why does it take so long to schedule a hearing, and how does Social Security expect me to support myself while waiting?
There are a couple of reasons it takes so long for a hearing to be scheduled.
- The first reason has to do with the number of individuals requesting a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. When you file your request for a hearing you are essentially given a number in line. Once your number comes up, then the hearing officer will schedule your hearing. In certain circumstances, you can request to have your hearing expedited, but those situations need to be extreme. Some examples include if you are in foreclosure or not able to afford your medications. It is extremely difficult to have your hearing expedited because essentially you are asking the hearing office to put you in the front of the line, ahead of other individuals in similar situations.
- The other reason it takes so long to request a hearing is that the hearing officer needs to prepare or “work up” your case for the hearing. To do this, they take the medical records pertinent to your disability claim and organize them electronically onto what is termed a “CD.” Depending on the size of your medical file this could take some time.
- The main reason it takes so long for your hearing to be scheduled is due to the sheer volume of individuals requesting a hearing.
What to do while you’re waiting for a hearing
One thing you can do while waiting for a hearing is to make sure you have all of the appropriate evidence to support your claim. This way, once the hearing is scheduled you will be ready to go in front of the judge without further delays. This is when having an attorney representing you really comes in handy. An experienced Social Security attorney will listen to your claim for disability and will be able to know exactly what evidence the judge will need at the hearing to approve your disability case. If you are at the hearing stage of the process I strongly urge you to seek representation. You’ve waited this long so make sure you are fully prepared for the hearing. The worst thing that could happen is you wait two or three years for a hearing, and on the day of the hearing, the judge notices your file is missing some key pieces of evidence, postpones your case for a supplemental hearing, and therefore adds extra time to your case because you need to gather additional evidence. Or, very worst-case scenario, the judge flat out denies your claim because the evidence is not in the file. Either way, you’ve waited a significant amount of time just to have the judge postpone a decision or deny your case. Your best option is to seek representation, so you are presenting the strongest case possible to the judge. The wait time is significant, don’t mess around with your chances by trying to tackle this on your own.