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Request a Hearing
The hearing comes about after you have lost at each of the first two stages. You must appeal the second stage (Reconsideration) denial within 60 days of getting it in the mail. To do this, you will need to complete a few forms. One of them is HA-501, which is the official request for a hearing. It says, “REQUEST FOR HEARING BY ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE” across the top. Most of it is pretty straightforward. But watch out for question number 5, which asks you to explain why you disagree with the previous determination (decision) about your claim. They barely give you and space to answer, which probably tells you a bit about how much they care about your answer. But, it’s your right to give them a reason. Just don’t say too much. Simply explain that your medical condition makes you eligible for disability benefits. Question 6 asks about new medical evidence regarding your condition. If you have it, give it to them. Just make sure to make copies so that you have records for yourself.
After you submit the request for your hearing, there is usually some major waiting on the way. Recently the wait times have been greatly reduced but you should expect wait an average of 10 months before you get to go before a judge. Just as with the first two stages, you should spend that time doing everything but waiting. Instead, you should be visiting your doctors, making sure they are writing up reports on a regular basis, taking care of your health and checking up on the status of your hearing request. If you show up at the hearing without a recent doctor’s appointment, your case could be in big trouble right away. Keep yourself as involved in your case as you can.
Some months into your wait, you will get a notice from Social Security. This is very often misunderstood by claimants. Even though it has the words “75 DAY NOTICE” written up top, it does not mean your hearing is 75 days away. Unfortunately, all it tells you is that Social Security will contact you again when they set a date for your hearing. You will have some time ahead of you.
Eventually, you will receive a notice with a date on it. This is your hearing date, and it is a very important piece of information. When you get it in the mail, you should immediately reply to our Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) and let them know whether or not you can make it. (You usually get an envelope with an address,) IF you have a representative, you should also call them to make sure they got word of the hearing date as well. Social Security is supposed to send your representative a copy of everything they send you but they don’t always do it.
Do everything in your power to make that date work. Even if you have to cancel a doctor’s appointment, you should probably try and get there. If you have to reschedule, it could take months all over again.
If you get denied at the first two stages of the disability process, you have the right to ask for a hearing. It is your first (and maybe your only) chance to tell your side of your story in your own words. No more anonymous letter from some state agency. Now it’s time for some face-to-face action.
Nothing to worry about, right? Wrong, very wrong. Even though the hearing can be the best part of the process, it can also be the works. In fact, if you are not ready for what is going to happen, your case – even if it is a good one – can lose at this stage as well. That does not mean you have to be afraid of the hearing. It just means you have to be totally prepared.
If you just look at the word “hearing” you see the word “hear,” right? Good. That should give you a clue as to what is in store. This is the time for you to be heard. For the first two stages, the people making your decision never actually met you. They just read the forms and looked at the medical evidence. They got no sense of what you looked like or sounded like. They never got to hear you make your case. That is all about to change.
At the hearing, you will be asked questions by the judge. Your answers will help the judge make a decision, which will be mailed to you at a later date. There is no jury and no big courtroom like you see on television. It’s basically you, the judge, the judge’s assistant, and – if you are smart – a qualified lawyer or advocate.
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