This article is part of a two part series on how to navigate each step of the Social Security disability process. In this article, we cover what to expect at the Request for Hearing stage, including pre and post hearing. Part 1 covers determining what disability program fits your situation, and the steps needed to take if you were denied benefits.
Request for Hearing: pre-hearing
If you have made it to the pre-hearing stage, then you have been denied at both the initial claims and reconsideration levels. While this may seem frustrating, now you will be going in front of a judge and for the first time in this long process you will have the opportunity to actually be present in your case. The process for the hearing will be a little tedious though. First you will file a "request for hearing". At this point, your file will go from the local Social Security office to the hearing office where it needs to be processed once more. We call this stage of processing "the desert" stage because this part of the case takes a long time (usually about five months).
While those five months probably seem frustrating and unnecessary, once you have gone through the stage, the case will move pretty quickly after that point. Once your file has been processed at the hearing office, your case will then be deemed "ready for review". The attorney may review your case at this time to make sure that all of the information is complete and correct.
Next the judge and the experts will be assigned. At this point, you will submit any missing documents that may be pertinent to your case. Examples of these documents are medical updates or legal briefs. Finally, your hearing will be scheduled. You usually receive a notice of hearing 2-3 months before the date assigned. Lastly, the hearing will take place and you will have the opportunity to explain your situation in person.
To learn more about the judges that you may be dealing with, visit the Disability Judges website.
Request for Hearing: post-hearing
After the hearing, you are probably only concerned with a decision. While you will not learn immediately, the post-hearing stage is short! During this time the judge may ask for more documents to assist with the decision. If no documents are requested, then the case will go the processing stage which takes about two months.
After those two months, you will get a notice that you either won or lost your case. If you won your case, then your win will be processed, and within a couple of months you will receive a check for you Social Security benefits. If you lost your case, then you have a couple of options.
The first option is to file an appeal within 60 days. This appeal will then be rescheduled and you will be assigned to the same judge in the near future. The second option is to refile your case altogether. If you refile your case, you then have to start at the initial claims level all over again. Both are viable options, and you should probably discuss with your attorney which option will work better for you.
If you made it to the post-hearing stage, you have finally completed the entire process of a Social Security disability case.