Disability Hearing Backlog

Apple Valley, Beaumont, Hemet, Moreno Valley, Ontario, San Jacinto, Upland, West Covina

When you become disabled, you probably have a lot of things on your mind. If you can’t work, you’re wondering how you can possibly restore your income so you can receive medical treatment and get back to work. So, you apply for disability benefits. Then what happens?

  • About 40% of all claims are approved within a few weeks to a few months of the initial application. The Social Security Administration has a statistical scoring method that prioritizes certain disability claims.
  • Some claims are partially approved. For example, they may approve the claim, but say that the disability began later than when you actually stopped working. If this happens, it’s important to consult a lawyer before attempting to appeal.
  • Many claims are disapproved.

Luckily, if your claim is one of the many that’s disapproved, you can appeal. Your first appeal is known as a Request for Reconsideration. About 20% of these are approved.

What do you do if your claim is denied twice? You request a hearing. More than half of all claims that reach the hearing stage are approved! However, there’s a backlog of cases that have been waiting for hearings. In some parts of the country, the backlog is virtually non-existent, but in other regions, cases have been waiting almost three years for a hearing. The backlog is caused in part by underfunding and understaffing of the Social Security bureaucracy, combined with periodic increases in Social Security claims that occur when people file who are unable to work because of economic conditions rather than because of a bona fide medical disability.

disability hearing backlog

Here’s the good news. If your disability is so severe that it matches one of the Listings of Impairments maintained by the Social Security Administration, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of winning, even before you see a lawyer.

  • Get medical treatment for your condition, and follow the advice of your doctor to the best of your ability.
  • If you are unable to afford to see a doctor, check with local churches and non-profit organizations to see if you can get a referral.
  • Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can determine whether your condition meets any of the Listings of Impairments.

If your doctor tells you not to work, or volunteers to participate in your case, then print out information from the website listed below.

  • http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/listing-impairments.htm and ask the doctor to review the list and see if you qualify. A letter from a doctor saying that you meet a specific listing carries far greater weight than a letter merely saying that you are disabled.
  • If your doctor thinks your condition meets a Social Security listing, and you cannot work, ask him to send the records directly to the Disability Determination Service. If you are a Bill Gordon client, we can provide you with the mailing address or fax number where your doctor can send the records. The Social Security Administration is actually required to give great weight to your doctor’s diagnosis of your condition – if it is supported by your medical records!
  • If asked by the Social Security Administration or the Disability Determination Service to attend a “consultative examination,” it is very important that you go. The Social Security Administration schedules one if there is not enough information in your medical records for them to determine whether you meet their definition of disability. If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-819-8123 immediately. If you don’t show up for a consultative examination, your claim will likely be denied.
  • Doctors who do consultative examinations sometimes try to determine whether you are “exaggerating” your disability, and if they think you are, they could issue a report that may result in a denial. Rather than trying to outsmart the examiner, try to act as if you are being examined by your own doctor. That way, the doctor doing the examination will be more likely to focus on how to diagnose your condition accurately. Ask the examiner to send a copy of the report to your own doctor.

Doctors are qualified to say that you meet specific listings, whereas lawyers are qualified to say you are disabled. By making the best possible use of the expertise of both your doctor and a legal professional, you greatly improve the chances of winning your case.


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