Administrative Law Judge
If an individual’s initial application and their request for reconsideration are denied, they have the option to appeal the SSA’s decision in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). Administrative law judges are quite similar to trial judges except that they are appointed based on passing written and oral examinations.
ALJs resolve conflicts in court between government organizations and individuals affected by the decisions of those organizations. At this point in the appeals process, the decision for whether or not the applicant is approved for benefits is solely in the hands of the ALJ assigned to the case, not the SSA.
The ALJ presides over the hearing and will question the applicant and their witnesses (if applicable). A Vocational Expert may attend a hearing at the ALJ’s request. Before the hearing begins, the ALJ will review the applicant’s exhibit file, which contains the applicant’s medical documentation, work history, and reasons for denial.
New Medical Evidence
The ALJ will also review any new medical evidence submitted by the applicant before the hearing. If an applicant is unable to submit new medical evidence before the hearing, he or she may present it at the hearing for potential consideration. However, it is recommended that an applicant turn in all new evidence before the day of the hearing.
Chances of Approval
The appeals hearing with an ALJ is the best chance an applicant has to be approved for disability benefits. This is due to the fact that the appeals hearing is the only opportunity an applicant will have to present their case in-person before the individual (ALJ in this case) authorized to make a determination on their claim. Beforehand in the application process, other individuals responsible for making decisions only had the evidence within the initial application to come to a conclusion. ALJs also have the power to make subjective decisions, while the previous SSA officials who denied the applicant’s initial application and request for reconsideration have to follow tight restrictions.