When you are found to be disabled under Social Security Regulations, benefits are paid under one of two programs or both. If you have sufficient earnings over the ten years prior to becoming disabled, then you will be paid through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program. If you do not have sufficient earnings to qualify for SSDI benefits, then you may be able to receive benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. This is a need-based program for individuals who are disabled. You have to demonstrate the additional non-medical eligibility for SSI benefits. This is similar to demonstrating eligibility for welfare or other forms of aid. In some cases an individual will be eligible for SSDI benefits but their benefit payment will be low enough to be eligible for some additional payments under the SSI program.
The issue of disability or the inability to perform full time work is the same for both programs. A condition, injury, or illness that prevents you from working can be physical or mental. Disability can also be established with a combination of mental and physical conditions.
Disability hearings deal mostly with either the initial or the revised determination of one’s disability or impairment. Generally, the hearing addresses the issue of whether a claimant can be considered disabled or the claimant’s determined disability must be reviewed or revised.
These hearings are often conducted by hearing officers who decides on the claimant’s issue based on medical records, work activity and sometimes, additional testimony from expert witnesses like doctors or therapist.
However, disability hearings may also be conducted based on the following reasons:
- if an individual has been receiving benefits based on a medical impairment that causes him to be disabled (Title XVI cases, blind or disabled)
- if the Social Security Administration has made an initial or revised determination based on medical factors, to decide whether one’s impairment is no longer a disability
- if a request for reconsideration or revision of determination has been made
In some cases, disability hearings are also conducted when a claimant is no longer disabled because his/her impairment had ceased, no longer exists, or no longer disabling.
Under the law, claimants are also entitled to ask and request for reconsideration on their claims.
When a claim is denied after initial determination, a claimant may request a hearing with the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). During the hearing, a claimant may present new information and will be asked to present expert witnesses.
As the final level of administrative review in a claimant’s case, the Appeals Council may review the request for review or deny it. If the Council decides to review the claimant’s case, it may either decide on the case or return it to the ALJ for further review.
If the Appeals Council decides not to review a case or the claimant disagrees with their decision, he/ she may file a lawsuit with the federal district court.
Whether you are getting ready to file an initial application or you have already applied, been denied, and seek to appeal the denial, working with an experienced Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) attorney can greatly increase your chances for a successful claim or appeal.
A recently filed class-action lawsuit that our firm is involved in claims that judges reviewing Social Security Appeals in Queens, New York are biased against applicants, whom the judges have systematically denied benefits by making legal and factual errors.
Filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, the lawsuit alleges that five of the eight ALJs reviewing claims in the SSA’s Queens office have engaged in the “persistent and intentional” denial of claims based on an “anti-claimant bias.”
According to the New York Times, three of the Queens ALJs named in the suit rejected more than 60% of Social Security claims they reviewed from September 2010 to February 2011, while one judge in particular rejected a whopping 81% of claims reviewed during the same time. As a whole, the News Journal in Delaware reports that the Queens office had the nation’s third-highest rejection rate from 2005 to 2008.
Denied Social Security applicants and their lawyers aren’t the only ones complaining. The Times’ Sam Dolnick reports that “federal judges have rejected scores of the Queens rulings in recent years, complaining of legal errors, ‘combative’ hearings and a tone that one court called ‘brusque, intemperate and unhelpful.'” In 2007, the Queens office had the fifth highest percentage nationwide of decisions sent back for rehearing upon further appeal.
The outcome of the action may affect not only the plaintiffs who filed the suit, but also other Social Security applicants: the suit seeks to bar the five judges from hearing any more claims and to annul all of their decisions since 2005 in which benefits were denied.
At the Harris Law Group, we take pride in our success in assisting clients with applications and appeals for Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) benefits. We have successfully assisted and represented clients suffering from a wide range of injuries and illnesses, all with one thing in common: they desperately needed Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) benefits. We can help you, too.
We are available Monday through Friday from 9 to 6 in our Queens, Bronx, or Brooklyn office. Please call (718) 275-3660 and schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with a lawyer to discuss your claim. We have handled Social Security Disability hearings throughout New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennslyvania, Florida, Texas, and Georgia.