Disabled individuals who apply for social security disability and/or SSI benefits are entitled to a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge if their case is denied.
Such a hearing can be requested if the claim is denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels. (If the claim is approved at either of those levels before a hearing is held, no hearing is necessary).
A hearing is a very important right that should always be exercised by a claimant. The reason is that a personal appearance before a Judge gives the person the opportunity to present their verbal testimony during an in person personal appearance. This can be of value because the person can testify as to their background, work history, medical conditions, and symptoms. Some of this information may not be adequately presented in just the written case record in a file.
Moreover, the Judge also has the opportunity to observe the claimant and make a determination as to the claimant’s credibility. This is more easily done during a hearing than by means of a records review.
Because a hearing is an important part of the disability determination process, Social Security regulations provide that a hearing can only be waived by means of a written statement signed by the claimant or his representative. In such a writing, the claimant verifies that he or she has been fully advised of the right to a hearing and, despite such advice, knowingly and voluntarily waives the right to a hearing.
Specifically, such a written waiver must contain at least the following five elements:
1) That the claimant has received a thorough explanation of the hearing procedure;
2) That the claimant has been advised of the right to appear at the hearing and present testimony and evidence;
3) That the claimant has been advised of the right to be represented at the hearing by an attorney or qualified representative of his or her own choosing;
4) That in some cases additional evidence obtained through oral testimony and physical presence may be of value to the presiding officer in deciding the case;
5) That if the claimant does not appear at the hearing, then the case will be decided based solely on the written evidence then in the file, plus any additional evidence submitted by the claimant or his representative;
6) That the claimant may withdraw the waiver of his right to appear at a hearing at any time prior to the mailing of a decision in the matter.
See SSR 79-19.
Because of the importance of a personal appearance at a hearing, I would recommend that a person claimant disability benefits seek the help of an experienced attorney of his or her own choosing to prepare for such a hearing.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.