Friday, July 30, 2010

Avoiding SSD Hearings

It can take years to get a Social Security Disability (“SSD”) application approved. According to the Social Security Administration (the “SSA”), the majority of applications are initially denied. The next step in many locations, including the New York metropolitan area, is to have the claim heard by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The waiting time for a hearing according to SSA statistics is well over a year. Hearing offices will often tell claimants to expect an 18 to 24 month for the hearing.

The hearing delay can be avoided by making use of the staff attorneys at hearing offices known as Attorney Advisors. An Attorney Advisor can issue fully favorable on-the-record (“OTR”) decisions, which negates the need for a hearing with an ALJ. The best way to show an Attorney Advisor that a case does not need to be heard by an ALJ is by showing that the claimant meets a Medical-Vocational rule or listed impairment criteria that requires a finding of disability. I received a fully favorable OTR decision today from an Attorney Advisor that illustrates this point.

I represent a 50 year old former construction laborer. I cited a Medical-Vocational rule that required finding him disabled even he were capable of performing sedentary work. While accepting the evidence that the claimant lacked the ability to perform sedentary work, the Attorney Advisor pointed out that even if the claimant possessed that ability the Medical-Vocational rules would require finding him disabled.

The Medical-Vocational rules bolstered the credibility and reliability of the claimant’s complaints and the treating physician’s opinion. The net result was that instead of waiting well over a year for a hearing, the claimant only waited 11 days for his OTR to be approved.