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A hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is the second level of appeals for Social Security Disability claims. After the initial rejection of a claim and denial of reconsideration by a new reviewer, an applicant has the opportunity to request a hearing in front of an ALJ.
Request a Hearing by an ALJ
With the help of your social security attorney, you can request a hearing before an ALJ if you were denied after reconsideration by the SSA. The request for a hearing may be made by letter or through a hearing request form. The ALJ makes a decision based on the evidence in the record, which includes any supplemental medical and other evidence and statements you’ve presented or made at the hearing.
Time Constraints to File for an ALJ Hearing
Under normal conditions, you have 60 days after receiving the SSA’s decision to request an appeal. The 60-day window does not commence until five days after SSA mails the notice, unless you can show proof that the denial letter took longer than five days to reach you. If the SSA does not receive a response within the 60-day timeframe, the ALJ reserves the right to disregard the appeal. A good excuse for delay may extend the timeframe, but this must be sought through a written request.
Time and Place of Hearing
When the SSA receives a request for a hearing, they will try to schedule a hearing on a date which is convenient for you. At least 20 days prior to your hearing, you will receive a notice providing the date, time, and location of the hearing. Hearings are normally scheduled within a 75-mile radius of your home, but can be held farther away in some circumstances. Exceptions can be made for applicants with health issues preventing them from appearing at the hearing. For the convenience of the applicant, some hearings may be able to be held by video conference. While attendance at the hearing is not required for an applicant or a representative, it is strongly encouraged.
The Hearing Process
Applicants should meet with their social security attorney to review their case file and submit any new evidence in a timely fashion before the ALJ hearing. At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will first explain the issues of the particular case. Next, any witnesses or experts will be questioned by the judge and may be cross-examined by the applicant’s representative. After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a written judgment, which will be provided to the applicant and their representative.
Compensation for Travel Expenses
If you are forced to travel more than 75 miles to attend the hearing, the SSA can provide compensation for certain travel costs. The stipulations include:
- SSA can fund transportation expenses such as a bus ticket or gas for your car.
- Under certain circumstances, you may be forced to spend money on food, lodging, or cab fares. The ALJ must consent to these costs prior to the hearing unless they were unexpected due to an emergency.
- The ALJ also has the authority to approve compensation for the travel expenses of your attorney and any witnesses vital to the outcome of the hearing.
- You must submit documentation of travel expenses to the ALJ either at the hearing or with as little delay as possible afterwards. This write-up must include a list of expenditures along with associated receipts. If you put in for a change in the hearing’s address to a building further from your residence or workplace, the SSA is not responsible for any related fees.
- If you need money for travel costs up front, let the ALJ know before the day of the hearing. The only way an advance request can be granted is if you prove that a lack of funds would assure your incapability to travel.
- If you receive an advance, you must provide the ALJ with a detailed list of travel expenses and receipts within 20 days of the hearing.
- If the advance is greater than your actual travel costs, you must pay back the difference within 20 days of receiving notification of the discrepancy.
How to Reduce Hearing Processing Time
The hearing process can be prolonged, so your cooperation will help the SSA evaluate your request as rapidly as possible. First, applicants who choose to appoint an attorney as a representative should do so as soon as possible to make sure their lawyer can be prepared and attend the originally-scheduled hearing. Second, applicants and their representative should submit any additional evidence to the ALJ before the day of the hearing. Lastly, the applicant should make sure to notify the SSA of any change in address as soon as possible.
Unfair Treatment Complaints
If you believe you were treated unjustly by an ALJ, tell a representative from the SSA immediately. You have the right to file a complaint at any time during the appeals process.