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The Social Security Benefits Hearing: A Client's Legal Guide, страница 1


The Social Security Benefits Hearing: A Client's Legal Guide

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The Social Security Benefits Hearing: A Client's Legal Guide

  The Social Security Benefits Hearing:

  A Client’s Legal Guide



  Andrew W. Kinney, Esq.



  * * * * *




  The Social Security Benefits Hearing:

  A Client’s Legal Guide

  Copyright © 2010 by Andrew W. Kinney



  This ebook is licensed for your personal use only. This ebook may given away (not sold) to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please feel free to make a copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, it’s OK because it’s a free e-book.  Please, however, cite and attribute Andrew Kinney’s work. Thank you for respecting the author's efforts to help as many people as possible.



  The Social Security Benefits Hearing:

  A Client’s Legal Guide


  What is this Legal Guide about?

  Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be difficult for a number of reasons.  A claim for Social Security benefits can take a few years.  Denials have appeal deadlines.  What may be most difficult for our clients at Hoglund Law Offices is that while you wait for Social Security to process your claim, you don’t feel well and you need the income.


  This legal guide helps our clients understand what to expect at the Social Security benefits hearing.  It explains the appeal process, how federal disability law works, and how your Hoglund Law Offices attorneys argue for your benefits before the federal judge at the hearing. 


  If you are not a current client, seek professional legal advice about your particular situation.  Laws can apply differently to different people.  Laws can also change.  If you need our help, you can call 1-800-850-7867. 


  Andrew W. Kinney, Esq.

  Hoglund Law Offices

  September 28, 2010


  * * * * *

  About the Author

  Andrew W. Kinney, Esq., is an attorney at Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC, a multi-state law firm.  He has practiced Social Security benefits law since 1992.  He is licensed in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  He is also a former Trustee of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR).  His offices can be reached toll-free at 1-800-850-7867. 

  Your Social Security Hearing:  The Basics


  What is a Social Security benefits hearing?

  A Social Security hearing is an informal, audio-recorded meeting between you and a federal Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in a private hearing room.  It usually lasts no more than an hour.  While you are sworn under oath, no formal rules of evidence apply.  Your attorney is with you.  There is no jury, no government attorney, and no public allowed. 


  At the hearing, the judge asks you about what medical problems keep you from working full-time.  The judge asks you about your work history, medical problems, and day-to-day medical restrictions.  The judge also asks experts at the hearing about your medical restrictions and about jobs that you, in theory, could do full-time.  During the hearing, your attorney asks you and the expert’s questions, and makes legal arguments for you.


  What am I trying to prove at my Social Security benefits hearing?

  You are trying to prove that your medical problems keep you (or are expected to keep you) from working full-time for at least year or more.  The judge will review your medical records, listen to your testimony and legal arguments at your hearing, and write a decision that you and your attorney will receive in the mail about 2 to 4 months later.


  Are there different kinds of Social Security benefits hearings?

  Yes.  This client legal guide is limited to hearings in which you are proving you cannot work in order to get monthly Social Security benefits. 


  Different kinds of Social Security hearings also happen.  One kind is about “overpayment” of past benefits.  In these cases, Social Security is asking for repayment of benefits already paid out.  Another kind of hearing involves cutting off ongoing benefits.  These are called “cessation” claims because Social Security asserts disability has stopped.


  Who is at my Social Security benefits hearing?

  The judge will run your hearing.  The judge’s Hearing Assistant brings you and your attorney into the hearing room and manages the audio recording of the hearing.  Others at your hearing include a Vocational Expert and (sometimes) a Medical Expert. 


  A Medical Expert (if present) is a medical doctor or psychologist paid by the government to be at your hearing.  The Medical Expert summarizes your medical record for the judge and gives a medical opinion about your medical limitations. 


  A Vocational Expert is a job expert paid by the government to be at your hearing.  The Vocational Expert answers questions about your work background and whether you can work despite your combined physical and/or mental limitations.  


  What will happen at my hearing? 

  Although hearings may vary, they generally follow the order listed below.  (Keep in mind that everyone, including you and your attorney, is seated.)


  1.  The JUDGE swears in you and the experts.


  2.  The JUDGE verifies through your attorney whether you understand how the hearing works.  If you are unrepresented, the judge will ask you if you wish to postpone your hearing to get representation. (For more information on this topic, go to Hoglund Law Social Security Blog at


  3.  The JUDGE verifies with your attorney whether there are any “objections” to your electronic medical record.  Your electronic medical record has “exhibits” that are listed under the “F” section of your attorney’s hearing disk.  The computerized medical records also include date ranges. 


  Important note:  If your attorney believes relevant medical records are either missing or not updated in your hearing file, your attorney will raise this issue at the beginning of the hearing.  The judge may either:  (1) Postpone the hearing to get these records, or (2) give your attorney a deadline to get these records after the hearing.


  4.  The JUDGE may then ask your attorney his or her “theory” of your claim, an informal summary of how your medical problems preclude you from all relevant full-time jobs.  Your attorney’s experience comes into play at this time.  When judges request this, your attorney may highlight the main medical and legal issues that could allow a favorable decision.   


  Important note:  Non-medical reasons for your inability to work – such as inexperience, lack of transportation, or the unavailability of particular kinds of job openings – are irrelevant.


  5.  The JUDGE asks you questions about past work, medical symptoms, and day-to-day activities.  Your attorney will ask you follow-up questions if necessary.  For all questions, make sure to:  (1) Listen to the questions, (2) tell the truth, and (3) keep it simple. 


  Important note:  You should not interrupt the judge or expert(s) when they are talking.  Observers at your hearing such as family or friends s
hould also avoid interrupting.  Keep in mind that common sense and prudence at these informal proceedings goes a long way.  Depending on the situation, your attorney can make sure you understand what is going on.


  6.  The JUDGE lets your attorney ask you questions.  Your attorney will ask you questions to clarify how your medical problems affect your ability to work full-time.  This is called direct examination.  Your attorney’s experience in Social Security hearings is very useful at this stage.


  7.  The JUDGE asks the Medical Expert (if present) about the medical evidence. The Medical Expert will list diagnoses in your medical records, and then explain how he or she thinks your medical conditions limit your ability to work.    


  Important note:  Your attorney has a right to “cross-examine” experts after the judge’s questions.  Your attorney’s questions can make all the difference.  


  8.  The JUDGE then lets your attorney ask the Medical Expert questions.  Your attorney usually does this to clarify how certain medical problems in the medical record affect your ability to work in ways the Medical Expert either missed or ignored.  Your Hoglund Law Offices attorney is experienced in both medical issues and Social Security law.  This is a key advantage when he or she questions a medical expert. 


  Important note:  You may hear your attorney cite the exhibit and page numbers of the medical evidence when cross-examining the medical expert.  This allows your attorney to pinpoint medical records that support your claim. 


  9.  The JUDGE asks the Vocational Expert “hypothetical questions”.  In these questions, the judge will lay out certain combinations of medical restrictions premised on your medical problems.  The judge will
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