The following are answers to questions commonly asked by our Social Security disability clients.
1. What happens now that I have been turned down twice for disability?
WE APPEAL, or ask the Social Security Administration (SSA) to schedule a hearing for you with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Our staff at The Law Office of Jonathan A. Heeps will assist you while we wait for SSA to schedule your social security hearing.
2. How long will it take for SSA to schedule a disability hearing?
8 to 12 months. THIS IS ONLY AN AVERAGE: some claims take less lime; some claims take more time. You should never compare your claim to others as every claim is different. You will get a letter from the office of SSA that schedules hearings (Office of Hearing Operations, or "OHO"), with “Notice of Hearing" printed on top. This notice will tell you the date, time and location of your hearing. The notice should come about 75 days before your hearing date.
What should I do if I still haven't received a hearing date after 12 months?
CALL US. OHO allows us access to their electronic status system so we are able to monitor the progress of your case while we're waiting for your hearing to be scheduled. We cannot force OHO to schedule your hearing, as they schedule hearings based on the date your hearing was requested. However, if you have received a new diagnosis that deems you "terminally ill", or you are facing foreclosure or eviction from your home, please call our office. We will write the ALJ to let them know that your case has become "dire'' and they will decide if they can schedule your case in front of the other claimants who have been waiting just as long (or longer). Please note that these circumstances must indeed be ''dire" and we are required to provide proof or such circumstances to the ALJ's office. Unfortunately, simply going into deep debt, filing bankruptcy, or going through all your savings to help pay your costs of living do not quality as “dire" need.
3. What happens to my case while I am waiting for a hearing to be scheduled?
Social Security has special judges called '"Administrative Law Judges” (ALJ) who decide disability cases. These ALJs do NOT decide other kinds of State and Federal cases. like divorces or crimes; they only decide disability cases.
SSA will send your file to the ALJ's office, called the Office of Hearings Operations" (OHO). When OHO gets your case, you will receive a letter from them telling you that you will get a Notice of Hearing 75 days ahead of time. This does not mean that your bearing will be scheduled in 75 days. The letter only means that they have received your file and you will be notified of your disability hearing date 75 days or so ahead of time.
After they mail the letter to you, your case will be put in line to be put in exhibit order and then assigned to an ALJ to review. The ALJ will read all of your medical records that SSA has gathered up to that point, and when the ALJ is ready to schedule your hearing and has an opening on his/her docket, your hearing will be scheduled.
The letter says my hearing may be scheduled sooner if agree to a video hearing. What is a video hearing?
You have the option to have your disability hearing held by video if you live far away from the OHO that services your area. We do not believe that it is in your best interest for you to have a video hearing because the ALJ will only be seeing you on a TV monitor. We generally feel it is always best for you to be in front of the ALJ when he/she is deciding whether or not you are disabled. We will let OHO know that you do not want your hearing by video. You do not have to return the form that they send to you as we will object on your behalf. OHO still must schedule hearings in date order, so agreeing to have your hearing by video does not guarantee your disability hearing will be scheduled sooner than it would have been normally. However, if an ALJ has an opening on a video docket and asks us to schedule a video hearing for you that would be sooner than an in-person hearing, we will of course consult with you on that option before turning down any hearing setting.
Who will be my ALJ?
Your case will be assigned to the next ALJ on rotation. We cannot tell you who the next ALJ is on the rotation nor who was the last. OHO does not share this information with any representative.
Why does it take so long for a hearing to be scheduled in my case?
The ALJs are VERY busy reviewing hundreds of Social Security disability cases. The process is very slow and they are always running behind. We must simply wait our turn to get a hearing date. The ALJs try to take each case in order of when a hearing request was filed.
Can I call the ALJ's office and try to get my disability hearing scheduled sooner?
NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! We think it is best to wait your tum - at least within the time it usually takes to get a disability hearing. It won't help to become a pest at the ALJ's office, mainly because the ALJ's clerk has to pull your file to review it to answer your questions, which may mean it is pulled out of line and will only delay your case farther. As stated above, we have up to the minute information on the status of your claim and can share that with you.
4. Will the ALJ ask me to do anything while I am waiting for my disability hearing?
Probably not. But, after reading your medical records, the ALJ may schedule an examination with an independent doctor that SSA will pay for. Not all ALJs ask claimants to see a doctor and even ALJs who do this do NOT ask everyone to see a doctor. If you get a letter scheduling an examination like this, CALL US BEFORE YOU GO TO THE APPOINTMENT. We will talk to you about what will happen at your doctor's appointment. If you have a regular doctor, the ALJ may ask YOUR doctor for the information he/she needs or may ask your doctor to examine you again to get the information.
5. What should I be doing to help my case while I am waiting for my disability hearing to be scheduled?
A) See Your Doctor Regularly.
See your doctor at least every 3 - 6 months. Don't miss appointments. Follow the treatment the doctor recommends. Tell your doctor you have applied for Social Security disability. Discuss with your doctor whether he/she thinks you can do any kind of work and whether he/she will help you prove you can't work.
B) If you don’t have a Doctor, Get One and See the Doctor Regularly.
Not having insurance and/or not having money to see a doctor is not always a good excuse because you can get FREE medical care, or you can sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act. In Dallas County, you can go to the Parkland Hospital Clinic for free; in Tarrant County, you can go to the John Peter Smith Hospital Clinic. If you do not live in Dallas or Tarrant Counties and you do not know where to get help, CALL 211 and ask for free clinics in your area, or call our office for a list of indigent health care providers.
If you don't go to a doctor. Social Security will think nothing is wrong with you to keep you from working OR that you don't want to get better.
CALL US for help in finding a place to get FREE treatment for your problems, or for information on the Affordable Care Act. It is more important than ever that you start seeing a doctor before your hearing. DON'T PUT IT OFF!
C) Apply for Vocational Rehabilitation at the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Service (DARS).
Wouldn't you rather get a new job you can handle than live on Social Security disability benefits? DARS can help you get that job. If DARS can't help you, that will be good proof that you are disabled. Either way, going to DARS is good for you. CALL US for more information about how to sign up for vocational rehabilitation with DARS.
It is also more important than ever that you try to get help from DARS for vocational rehabilitation before you see the ALJ. DON'T PUT IT OFF!
6. When will I get to meet my lawyer?
As soon as the ALJ sets a date for your disability hearing. The ALJ's office will call us to schedule a date and time for your disability hearing. As soon as we know the date of your disability hearing, a meeting with Mr. Heeps will be scheduled for you and we will send you a letter with the date and time of your appointment. If you receive a "Notice of Hearing'' and you have not heard from us, please call our office.
7. When should I call The Law Office of Jonathan A. Heeps?
ALWAYS CALL US IF/WHEN:
A. You have a new address and/or telephone number.
B. You go to an emergency room, a hospital or see a NEW doctor (not listed on your forms).
C. You are scheduled for surgery or special procedure (like steroid injections).
D. You have a new diagnosis and/or new medication.
E. You receive a letter or telephone call from Social Security.
F. You stop getting medical treatment.
G. You start working (full or part-time).
** Reminder – Please Do Not Contact Social Security for any Reason **