Many people do not know what to do next after their application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied. Filing a new application is rarely effective and also can cause you to forfeit potential past due benefits that accrued while your previous application was pending. Appealing your case to an administrative law judge, however, preserves these benefits and also offers a fair probability of success, especially if you are assisted by an experienced Social Security attorney. But a typical Social Security Disability appeal can be a lengthy and confusing process. And because of the time commitment involved and the preclusive effect an adverse decision can have on your future ability to claim benefits, it is important to get it right the first time.
Following an initial denial, a claimant typically has 60 days to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Each hearing is assigned to one of 38 hearing offices in the Atlanta region, four of which are located in North Carolina:
North Carolina claimants who do not live close to one of these offices may have their cases assigned to a hearing office in another state. Such hearings are frequently held by teleconference connecting a judge and vocational expert at an ODAR hearing office with the claimant, claimant’s attorney and other witnesses at a field office or other satellite location. Hearings usually occur 10 to 12 months after the request.
Hearings typically take between 45 minutes and an hour and include one or more expert witnesses called by Social Security — usually a vocational expert and sometimes a medical or psychological expert. These experts evaluate your testimony, the records you have provided as well as any other evidence in the file and render an opinion regarding whether you can work and when your disability began. If their opinions are unfavorable to your case, you or your attorney has the opportunity to cross-examine. Following the hearing, the judge usually enters a written opinion within 30 days.