Many first-time applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied. And few make the cut at the level of reconsideration. In Rhode Island, many applicants who make it to the appeal hearing receive approval of benefits.
Unfortunately, many applicants are intimidated and confused by the Social Security Administration’s appeal process. This means numerous disabled Providence residents are unable to secure the money they need to pay for rent, groceries and other necessities. Below is a guide to understanding the appeal hearing process.
What happens at a disability hearing, and who will be there?
The appeal hearing is informal. It does not take place in a courtroom, and it is a private event. No one from the public can attend. There will be a recording made of the proceedings in case you must appeal the decision.
The administrative law judge will ask you questions about your application and medical conditions. You also may choose to bring witnesses to speak on your behalf, including:
- medical experts;
- your treating physician(s); and
- vocational experts.
You may bring a legal representative, such as a disability lawyer, to speak on your behalf.
How long will it take to reach a decision?
This generally is the longest stage of the disability application process. While the hearing itself may take only several hours, you may have to wait as much as a year – or more in some cases – to get a hearing date.
Will there be an attorney appointed to me or should I hire one?
The SSA will not appoint or provide an attorney. You do have the right, however, to select and hire a lawyer of your own choosing. Your lawyer cannot charge you any fees unless he or she is successful in winning your appeal.
Where are hearings held in Providence?
The SSA strives to provide a hearing office within 75 miles of your home. Your hearing may held in the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Providence (10th Floor, Suite 1000W, 155 Westminster St.). Or an administrative law judge may travel to another site (such as the Pawtucket or Warwick offices) to conduct local hearings. The administrative law judge handling your case will notify you of the time and location of your hearing. Note: Videoconference hearings may be available.
How do I schedule a hearing?
You must request a hearing in writing, whether through mail or via the SSA’s official website. You must request your hearing within 60 days of notification of denial of your reconsideration.
What should I bring to a hearing?
Materials to bring to the hearing include:
- medical records;
- test results;
- employment history;
- treatment history; and
- other fact-based records that verify your impairing medical condition and inability to work.
Confirm with any witnesses that all necessary evidence, documents and records will be readily available during the hearing.
I want to fight for my disability benefits. How do I get started?
You have the right to hire legal representation to help with any stage of your application. Learn more – including about legal fees and what to do to bolster a claim – during a free case evaluation with Rob Levine & Associates. Call (866) LAW-SSDI (866-529-7734) or contact us online.