Administrative Law Judges (ALJs)
ALJs, or Administrative Law Judges, work for and are appointed by the federal government to deliver rulings in many statutory law areas. More importantly for you, they work for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to decide whether to approve Disability claims after a hearing. You can find these Disability judges at your local Office of Hearings Operations, or OHO. Each state has a number of offices with several judges assigned to them.
What Is an ALJ and How Do They Evaluate a Disability Case for Backpay and Benefits?
An administrative law judge will usually read the cumulative Social Security file of any applicant before an appeal ALJ disability hearing. At the hearing, this is known as the exhibit file. Your exhibit file contains your work history, medical records, and reason for your original denial.
The ALJ will question both you and a vocational or medical expert at the hearing. Experts appear at hearings after being requested by the judge and are paid well for doing so.
What Is a Vocational or Medical Expert?
Vocational Experts (VEs) provide information about a range of jobs and occupations and discuss whether certain impairments prevent a worker from doing a particular job. They are usually used to prove that an applicant who cannot return to their previous position can still find other suitable work.
Medical Experts (MEs) are doctors whose testimony interprets a claimant’s medical records and how they impede their daily life.
In addition to calling experts, SSI judges also allow claimants and their lawyers to present new medical evidence that may strengthen their case by refuting previous findings that kept them from being approved by DDS Disability examiners.
How Long Does It Take an ALJ to Reach a Decision?
Once your Disability hearing has been conducted, your claim remains at the local OHO until the judge makes a decision. Depending on the judge’s workload, this can take up to 60 days. However, after the decision is made, it still needs to be written by staff decision writers at the hearings office before being reviewed by the administrative law judge and mailed out to you from your local Social Security Office. There’s no set deadline for this process. It could take as little as six weeks or as much as six months before you receive it.
Are Administrative Law Judges Fair?
As with any profession, most Social Security Disability representatives and attorneys will tell you that it depends on the judge. There are great ALJs and those who aren’t so great. While some judges are objective and open–minded about disability claims, others are likely to deny more cases even when the medical evidence is strong. Your chance of success is definitely somewhat affected by the judge who is assigned your case at the hearing level.
Most ALJs are more likely to approve an appeal fought with a lawyer. This is because a good Disability attorney knows how to make a strong case for positive Disability law judges’ decisions. For this reason, it’s important to speak to a lawyer about your case before filing an appeal. Call the Disability Help Center Nevada today at 1-888-704-4222 to schedule a free initial consultation.