The Social Security Adminsitration (SSA) may deny an applicant’s claim for benefits at the initial and, in Kentucky and some states, the reconsideration stages of the application process. The next step after these denials is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An ALJ is only human and each one is different. Before a hearing, is there anything an applicant or his representative can do to learn about the ALJ presiding over his or hearing and deciding the case at hand?
An ALJ sets the time and place for a hearing, considering certain logistical factors pertaining to the size of the docket, proximity of the hearing site to the claimant’s residence, and availability of the participants, i.e., the claimant, his or her representative, and witnesses on the proposed hearing date. The ALJ will attempt to schedule the location of the hearing site within 75 miles of the claimant’s residence. The ALJ may also consider scheduling the hearing by video teleconferencing or, in certain extraordinary circumstances, by telephone. Finally, a minimum of 20 days prior to the date of the hearing, a Notice of Hearing including the name of the ALJ assigned to a case is sent to a claimant.
In 2012, the SSA announced that the name of the ALJ would no longer be provided to claimants until the day of the hearing. Some say the purpose of the change was to eliminate “judge shopping” by attorneys on behalf of claimants seeking a judge more sympathetic to awarding benefits. Fortunately, this rule was reversed in April of 2013 as several attorneys and legal scholars expressed concerns that the due process rights of claimants were violated by this practice.
Most disability practitioners concentrate exclusively on social security cases and become well learned in the physical and mental impairments that cause disability. Lawyers for individuals applying for disability benefits familiarize themselves with the Social Security administrative and hearing offices in their geographical area, whether it’s to attend hearings, or review and file documents. It’s vital that local attorneys understand the tendencies and practices of administrative law judges in their jurisdiction of practice. Attorneys build experience from the process of learning and understanding how the system and its players work. From these experiences, they learn to better serve their clients.
Knowing an ALJ’s name allows an attorney to know the ALJ’s history and the details related thereto such as the ALJ’s track record in certain types of disability cases. It also allows sufficent time for the attorney to prepare for a judge’s particular predilections, formal and informal. This knowledge also allows an attorney to communicate with the ALJ before the hearing as necessary to resolve any pertient, pressing issues, including scheduling conflicts.
Make sure you understand all of the steps and processes associated with applying for social security disability benefits. Retain the services of a qualified Kentucky Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Sullivan Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so you have absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.