Hearing Before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

Massachusetts Social Security Disability (SSD) Law Firm

The Massachusetts Social Security disability lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates have helped countless disabled workers expedite the hearing process and find alternate ways of obtaining relief. For over 25 years, we have maximized benefits that were previously denied to workers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

SSD Hearing before an ALJ

After being denied disability benefits in an initial application and request for reconsideration, claimants typically wait approximately one year for a hearing before an ALJ. Written notice should arrive 30-45 days prior to the scheduled date. The hearing gives claimants their best chance of succeeding on their claim. An ALJ evaluates the claimant’s file, considers testimony from medical and vocational experts (VEs), and issues a decision within a few months of the hearing.

Vocational and Medical Experts

Medical and vocational experts are paid to testify at the hearing. Medical experts interpret medical records to give an opinion about the claimant’s disability. Because they are not doctors, ALJs tend to rely heavily on medical opinions when deciding whether to approve or deny a claim. Medical opinion also informs the testimony of VEs who give critical testimony regarding:

  • Claimant’s work history
    • Only past relevant work (PRW), not volunteer jobs or “closed period” work
    • Based on recent jobs, duration, and “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) level
  • Determination of PRW
    • Seasonal/part-time may qualify as PRW but no jobs done more than 15 years ago
    • Does not include trial periods, unsuccessful attempts, or work below SGA level
  • Classification of skill level
    • Based on physical requirements and learned duties of past job (last 15 years)
    • Responsibility and performance of some or all functions of specific position
  • Skills transferable to other work
    • Suitable “other work” or return to prior job with limitations, restrictions
    • Available range of jobs in various occupations based on current market

ALJs pose hypothetical questions to VEs about the claimants’ ability to work or obtain employment despite their medical condition. VEs work for the Social Security Administration and formulate answers based on: medical evidence, applicant testimony, PRW, and local job numbers. Claims may be denied based on VE opinions that the claimant can work.

Preparation and Presentation

If not represented, applicants should seriously consider retaining qualified counsel to defend their interests rather than appearing alone. Effective representation is critical in adversarial proceedings like hearings. A skilled lawyer can help you improve your chances of prevailing by:

  • Reviewing the file for inconsistencies and outdated records
  • Expediting receipt of documents from hospitals and doctors
  • Updating and supplementing evidence with doctor’s written opinion
  • Supporting disability claim with psychological or physical exam
  • Preparing claimants to answer likely questions by ALJ
  • Challenging any VE testimony unsupported by research, medical facts

Because ALJs, VEs, and even medical experts often appear to work for the “same side,” it can seem very difficult for claimants to successfully argue their cause. A lawyer with experience at SSDI/SSI hearings can help you by respectfully challenging judges and cross-examining experts while presenting the most persuasive case on your behalf.

Helping You Seek the Benefits You Deserve

The Massachusetts disability attorneys of Kantrovitz & Associates know how to help you prepare for your SSDI/SSI benefits hearing. For over 25 years, we have successfully obtained benefits in hearings for disabled workers in Boston, Middlesex County, Norfolk County, Essex County, Plymouth County, Suffolk County, Merrimack River area, and other counties in Massachusetts. For a free consultation, call (800) 367-0871 or contact us online.