A common belief SSI and SSDI applicants have going into their hearing before a judge is that the judge will rule immediately on their claim. Although judges will occasionally “tip their hand” or even announce a favorable decision form the bench, most judges will take their decision under advisement instead. Essentially, this means that the judge wants to think your case over. The judge may want to look at all of your medical records one more time in light of the testimony you provided or the testimony of other witnesses. The judge may also want to listen to the audio record of the hearing and hear the testimony one more time before deciding the case. If the judge takes the case under advisement, the judge will make his decision in the coming weeks. Rather than simply stamping “approved” or “denied” on your file, the judge will write (or instruct assistants to write) a detailed explanation of the decision. In his or her decision, the judge will work through the 5-step sequential evaluation process and apply the law to the facts of your case. Because of the large volume of cases and the degree of detail that goes into the decision writing process, many claimants must wait 2 or 3 months to receive a written decision.
There are three possible decision that a judge can issue. A judge may issue a fully favorable decision, a partially favorable decision, or an unfavorable decision. A fully favorable decision means that the judge has decided to grant you full back benefits, as well as ongoing benefits (unless you alleged that you recovered from your disability). On the other hand, a partially favorable decision means that the judge found you disabled, but not until a more recent date than when you alleged you became disabled. Also, a partially favorable decision might arise when the judge found you disabled for only a period of time. If you receive an unfavorable or only a partially favorable decision, it is best to consult with your attorney about whether or not to appeal this decision.