Social Security

Social Security wants to be sure that every decision made about your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim is correct. We carefully consider all the information in your case before we make any decisions that affect your eligibility or your benefit amount. If we decide that you are not eligible or no longer eligible for benefits, or that the amount of your payments should be changed, you have the right to request an appeal. The hearing process begins after the initial and reconsideration levels and entails a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Requests for hearings most likely involve issues of disability’Social Security disability insurance, Supplemental Security Income disability or both. Medicare and retirement or survivor issues comprise less than 10 percent of the cases that ALJs decide. You may obtain a representative to help you present your case. At the hearing level, representatives are involved in approximately 80 percent of cases. The representative need not be an attorney. Usually the ALJ will hold a hearing, although you may ask that your case be decided based on the written record without a hearing. At the hearing, you and the witnesses testify under oath or affirmation, and the testimony is recorded verbatim. The ALJ is responsible for looking into all the issues; he or she receives documentary evidence as well as the testimony of witnesses. The ALJ will allow you and/or your representative to present arguments and examine witnesses. If additional evidence is necessary, the ALJ may arrange for consultative examinations to be performed and may obtain additional medical evidence from sources who have treated you. Once the record is complete after the hearing, the ALJ will issue a written decision. A copy of the decision is mailed to you and your representative, if any, along with a notice explaining your right to appeal the decision. This appeal is called “review by the Appeals Council” and is the final administrative appeal step. It must be filed within 60 days of the notice of the hearing decision. For more information on the hearing process, log onto Social Security’s website, www.ssa.gov, or call toll free, 1-800-772-1213.

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