If you’ve been denied Social Security Disability benefits, keep in mind that two-thirds of claims are initially denied. You do have the right to appeal the decision, and proceed through the appeals process. At some point, you will likely end up at a Disability hearing, and you will have a chance to present your case in person. We do not suggest that you represent yourself at the hearing. Rather, we encourage you to retain our firm or another competent firm in your area for representation in the hearing. If you are unable to secure legal representation, or you are committed to representing yourself at the hearing, then this is how you should prepare for the hearing.
Present updated medical records. The wait time before reaching the hearing stage of the appeal process can be months, and quite often, a year or more. This sounds discouraging, but there is one benefit to waiting this long: You will have plenty of time to gather updated, thorough medical evidence to back up your claim.
You should review the Social Security Administration’s exhibit file months ahead of your hearing. The exhibit file should include copies of any records that you previously forwarded to the Social Security Administration. Don’t appear at the hearing with the same medical records you first submitted to Social Security with your initial claim, unless such records are not included in your exhibit file. Seek updated records, documenting any new developments in your condition, new treatments you have begun receiving, and observations by both your original doctor and any new ones you’ve begun to see.
You will receive notice. You will receive a notice 75 days in advance of your hearing date, giving you time to gather all of your medical records (and any other evidence pertinent to your case). But because physicians’ offices can get backlogged on paperwork, make your requests for records early in this 75-day period. You should make copies of everything for your own files (or your Social Security Disability attorney will make copies).
Ask for a doctor’s opinion. Aside from the records themselves, a written statement from your physician can provide valuable evidence for your case. Ask your doctor to write a statement (called a medical source statement) regarding your functional limitations. This letter should accurately depict your limitations as they relate to work settings (your ability to stand for periods of time, lift objects of a certain weight, communicate effectively, understand and follow instructions, and so on, depending upon the nature of your disability).
Caregivers, former employers, or others who are familiar with your condition can write letters as well.
Review your entire case file. You can ask Social Security for a copy of your exhibit file before the hearing. This gives you, and your Social Security Disability attorney, a chance to review for accuracies or missing evidence. It might also help you to prepare your arguments.
Contact a Social Security Disability attorney. If this process sounds daunting, know that you have the right to request representation by a Social Security Disability attorney. This professional can help you gather necessary documentation of your disability, understand the appeals process, and represent you at your upcoming hearing.