For the last several weeks, our blog has been discussing an upsetting phenomenon experienced far too often by people throughout Texas and across the U.S.: receiving a letter from the Social Security Administration indicating that their disability benefits are being terminated.
We've also been discussing how it's important not to panic if this happens given that there are four different levels of appeal available to you. In today's post, we'll take a closer look at the second level of appeal: the hearing.
What do you mean by "the hearing?"
If the reconsideration decision handed down by the disability hearing officer affirms the initial determination to stop disability benefits, you will have 60 days to request a hearing before a neutral administrative law judge.
Here, the ALJ, who has previously had no involvement with your case, will review all of the information in your case, and issue a decision either affirming or reversing the stoppage of disability benefits.
What actually happens at the hearing?
The ALJ will ask you and any witnesses that you choose to bring questions about your condition. In addition, other expert witnesses -- vocational specialists, medical professionals, etc. -- may also be questioned by the ALJ as a means of providing more information.
It's important to note that either you or your legal representative are allowed to question these expert witnesses.
Does anything need to be done prior to the hearing?
If you request a hearing, the SSA will mail a notification letter outlining the location and time at which it will be held. In the vast majority of cases, the hearing will be held within at least 75 miles of your home, but, in certain circumstances, it may be held via video conferencing.
The SSA may request additional information/evidence prior to the hearing, while you and your legal representative are permitted to submit new information on your own and review your file.
What happens after the hearing?
Once the hearing officer is complete, you will eventually be sent a letter and a copy of the ALJ's decision.
What if I disagree with the ALJ's decision (i.e., my disability benefits are still being stopped)?
If you disagree with the decision reached by the ALJ, you will have 60 days to request a review by the SSA's Appeals Council, something we'll explain further in our next post.
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your options and your rights if your disability benefits are going to be suspended.
Source: Social Security Administration, "Your right to question the decision to stop your disability benefits," Accessed Feb. 11, 2015