SSDI Policy Change Could Impede Disability Appeals

Obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for a disabled Minnesotan can be a lengthy process. If the initial claim for SSDI benefits is denied, the disabled person starts an appeal by submitting a request for reconsideration.

Next, a State Disability Determination Services office reviews the application and generates a new determination. If the claimant is still determined to be ineligible for SSDI benefits, the next step is to request a hearing to be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge.

Until the policy changed this year, claimants and attorneys have been told the identity of their administrative law judge when their hearing was scheduled. Knowing the ALJ's identity was potentially helpful for the applicants because they could learn how each particular ALJ tended to operate. For example, some judges like to hear extensive information about a claimant's work history, while others do not. Newer judges may need to hear more facts about a specific disability while more experienced judges wouldn't need the extra background information.

SSD attorneys have been able to use their knowledge about the judges to help claimants prepare for effective hearings and make sure the judges receive the information they prefer to receive before making a decision. Now, the Social Security Administration has implemented a new policy that makes it so applicants do not know who their ALJ is before the hearing.

Without knowing who the judge is, claimants will be flying blind: they won't be able to focus their preparation to provide what a specific ALJ needs.

Now, it is more important than ever to have an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer on your side. Every case will need to be prepared thoroughly, with extensive detail about an applicant's disability. Leaving out one piece among many pieces of information could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Navigating the appeals process is more likely to end well for a claimant who has an experienced guide and advocate, such as an attorney who specializes in these claims.