I Missed My Social Security Disability Hearing – What Happens Next?

I have been practicing Social Security Disability law for over 35 years and I sometimes run into this scenario. A disabled person has a hearing scheduled in front of an administrative law judge. The judge will decide whether or not the person is awarded disability benefits. The person misses the hearing or shows up for the hearing late. The judge will normally “dismiss” the person’s case. This can be the end of the road for the applicant unless the applicant had a good reason for missing the hearing. Typically, judges will not dismiss the case until the individual is more than 15 minutes late.

THE CASE OF JOHN DOE: In a recent case, Mr. John Doe could not make it to the courtroom because of a snowstorm. His case was dismissed. We appealed and the Appeals Council reversed the judge and found the snow storm was “good cause” for his failure to appear.

THE CASE OF JANE DOE: In a more recent case, Ms. Jane Doe went to the wrong building and did not show up until 30 minutes after the scheduled time for the hearing. When Ms. Jane Doe got her dismissal she contacted us and we appealed. The Appeals Council which hears appeals of judge’s decided send it back to the judge for a hearing regarding whether she had “good cause” to miss the hearing.

THE CASE OF RICHARD ROE: . Richard had his case set for a hearing six months ahead of time. Unfortunately, Richard had an automobile accident the day before his hearing. This caused him to be hospitalized at a local hospital. he was released the day of the hearing but he was in no shape to come to the hearing. he did call the hearing office but they failed to register his call. His case was dismissed but when we appealed his case the Appeals Council ruled his hospitalization was “good cause” for him to miss the hearing.

THE CASE OF JANE ROE: Jane had a hearing scheduled three months before her incarceration. At the time of the hearing she was in jail and could not attend the hearing. When she failed to show, her disability case was dismissed. Her appeal to the Appeals Council is pending.

In summary, even though you miss the hearing, that omission is not fatal to your case as long as you can establish “good cause” for your failure to appear. Generally, it should be a cause outside your control.

Common Questions When Considering a Social Security Disability Attorney

For those who have a case involving disability, it may become necessary to hire a Social Security disability attorney. There are a variety of benefits that come with utilizing legal assistance in these cases, and the fees are fairly reasonable. In fact, many lawyers will not charge if a case is lost. Clients and potential clients often have many questions when it comes to hiring a lawyer.

When Is a Social Security Disability Attorney Necessary?

One of the most common reasons for hiring a lawyer for these instances is to improve the likelihood of receiving approval for benefits. While some people are able to have a positive outcome without assistance, those with legal counsel almost always have a better chance of winning a disability case than those who do not.

While these attorneys are most commonly sought out after an initial denial, they can be very helpful at the application stage. In fact, their knowledge and expertise during the application stage may often result in an approval in one application period. On the application, the Social Security disability attorney can help argue that an individual’s condition meets the required list of impairments or provide advice on an alleged onset date of disability. During hearings or appeals, he or she can assist in collecting relevant medical evidence, such as doctor’s opinions, and preparations for any questions that may come from the judge. They can also assist with finding individuals to testify on behalf of the client.

When Should a Lawyer Be Called?

A Social Security disability attorney can be called at any point during the process, but it is best to call one as early on as possible. For those who may be on the fence on whether or not legal counsel is necessary, it is often beneficial to call, as many will provide a free consultation. He or she will be able to examine a case to determine the strength of the case and provide assistance with the application.

Another consideration to think about is final attorney fees. Those who are approved for benefits at the first try will owe smaller fees since there will be no back benefits owed to the client once the benefits are finally approved.

Hiring an attorney after an initial denial can greatly increase the chance of a positive outcome on the second application, and it is also possible to have the case moved through the process more quickly. This is often the case for terminal medical conditions or for extremely dire financial circumstances. However, this tends to be rare, as many must wait for several months before a case is resolved.

For those who are still on the fence about hiring a Social Security disability attorney, there is an instance in which it may not be helpful. For those who have submitted an initial application and are awaiting word, there is no need to get a lawyer yet as there is no point in paying a commission of past-due benefits unless there is a denial in coverage. However, in many other situations, having representation can be incredibly helpful.

What Every Social Security Disability Attorney Wants You to Know

The unfortunate reality about disability insurance is that many claimants who file for Social Security are denied, particularly during their appeal for benefits. Legal representation, such as a Social Security disability attorney, can increase your chances of approval during your initial claim, or if need be, during your appeal process.

Who Should File for Social Security Disability?

Social Security is a type of disability insurance that pays benefits to recipients and certain members of their family who meet specific criteria. The recipient must have worked for a long enough period in order to be eligible. In addition, they must have a medical condition currently preventing them from working, one that is expected to prevent them from working for a minimum duration of 12 months, or one that is expected to end in death. Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not mandate it, individuals who are looking to submit claims for this benefit can utilize legal representation for the process.

Obtain Representation as Soon as Possible

One of the biggest mistakes that potential claimants make in the filing process is that they don’t seek out a Social Security disability attorney as early as possible. The truth of the matter is that securing legal representation early in the process can potentially lead to a desirable outcome. How? A lawyer who is knowledgeable about this particular claim process can give you the benefit of their experience, and most importantly, they can present your case in the most legally favorable light.

According to the SSA, many applicants only seek out a disability attorney after their initial claim has been denied. Certainly, lawyers versed in these types of disability claims are more than willing to assist a claimant with what is called the reconsideration appeal process; however, there is usually very little that they can do once a claimant has been denied. In fact, the SSA reports that the reconsideration appeal rate is between 85 and 87 percent, which only serves to emphasize the grave importance of obtaining counsel before beginning the filing process. The majority of the cases won during the appeal process are the result of the legal representation’s labor.

Other Information to Consider

A disability attorney is entitled to receive 25 percent of the claimant’s back payment in the event of a win in court. This is standard operating procedure, and the fees should alarm no potential claimant looking for legal representation. However, be advised that the fee is typically deducted from whatever back pay is owed to the claimant first before the claimant receives their benefit.

Expertise in this particular type of disability takes focus. As a result, a Social Security disability attorney that only deals with this type of law is likely your best bet should you have a choice between a lawyer whose time is divided between other areas of the law and one who solely devotes their time to these types of cases.

The One Key Report That Will Win a Social Security Disability Case

After over a 1,000 successful Social Security Disability cases, as a disability lawyer I have found there is one report that can make a difference. What is that report?

First, the agency considers the opinion of the treating doctor to be the most important document in the medical file. However, the critical opinion often does not exist. Why is this? Simply, doctors are involved in treatment. They are not concerned with legal disability issues.

Second, the agency will not allow doctors to make the legal determination in the case. Thus, if the doctor says a claimant is “disabled” the agency will reject this “naked” statement. The agency will say this is a legal determination to be made by the Social Security Judge.

Third, a mere statement that you are “disabled” will not be accepted. However, an opinion (from the treating doctor) stating what impact the claimant’s impairments have on important body functions can be extremely important and may be decisive in a case. For example, the doctor’s opinion on how long the claimant can walk, stand or sit is critical. Also, the doctor’s opinion regarding lifting, bending, etc. is critical.

Fourth, an experienced disability lawyer will have a set of evaluation forms for your doctor. They will be tailored for your individual impairment. For example, for a low back problem, there will be a lumbar spine form. This form will ask the doctor critical questions on how the low back problem impairs important body functions like walking, standing, sitting, lifting, bending, etc.

Fifth, unlike a “naked” statement of disability, this report will elicit what the doctor’s opinion is about the claimant’s ability to perform critical work activities. If the doctor’s opinion in this matter is supported by the doctor’s treatment records over a period of time, then the Social Security Judge may be compelled to give this report “great weight” in the claimant’s case.

Sixth, even if other medical evidence disagrees with the treating doctor’s opinion, the treating doctor’s opinion will prevail if the opinion is well supported by the treating doctor’s records.

In summary, a single report can win a Social Security Disability case. However, it has to fit the above criteria: (1) the doctor must be a treating doctor; (2) the opinion must indicate how critical body functions are affected by the impairment; (3) the opinion cannot just say the claimant is disabled; and (4) the doctor’s opinion must be grounded in the doctor’s treatment records. An experienced Social Security lawyer can work with the claimant’s to develop this winning report.