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We focus on Social Security Disability Law. It is what we do.

The Process

The health problems and financial difficulties of being disabled and unable to work are extremely frustrating. For many people, obtaining Social Security Disability benefits is their only hope of living a happy and independent life. At the Mitzner Law Firm, we understand these struggles, and we have happily helped countless others just like you through every step of the Social Security Disability process.

The best way for you to get started is to call our office! We will provide you with the information you need to get started as a client with us. At the Mitzner Law Firm, we have the ability to handle your Social Security Disability claim from beginning to end, even if your case goes all the way to Federal Court. Our attorneys and staff are highly skilled at each stage of the Social Security Disability process. We love what we do, and we would love to help you.

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It is important to file your Social Security Disability claim as soon as possible. Waiting to file your Social Security Disability claim could cost you money. So please call our office today so that we can gather your information and see if we can help you with your case.

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Applying for Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration (also called SSA) has thousands of rules concerning disability benefits, and it can be a daunting process for many people. There are five steps to a Social Security Disability claim.

Step 1—The Initial Application (Apply):

• The first step in a Social Security Disability claim is to fill out an application. We will get information from you and put that information in the correct form to help complete your application. At this time, we will also get information about your disabilities and doctors. Once completed and submitted to the Social Security Administration, your application will be reviewed by a medical professional and a case worker, both of whom work for the Social Security Administration. This team will decide whether to award you Social Security Disability benefits, or to deny you. It is very difficult to win at this stage, and most clients do not.

Step 2—Reconsideration (Apply Again):

• If the Social Security Administration denies you benefits after your initial application, you have the right to appeal. This appeal consists of essentially re-filing your application. The same information will be required, and we will again submit this paperwork for you. Your application will then be reviewed by another team at Social Security, again consisting of a medical professional and a case worker. As with the initial application, that team will decide whether to award you Social Security Disability Benefits, or to deny you. Since this is the same group of people reviewing your case, usually a majority of applicants are denied and required to go to step 3.

Step 3—The Hearing:

• If you get denied at reconsideration (Step 2), you can request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (you might also hear them called an “ALJ”). Administrative Law Judges are Judges who work for the Social Security Administration. These ALJs only preside over Social Security Disability Cases (so no divorces or criminal prosecutions) and will give you the opportunity to present your claim in person. This is the first opportunity a Social Security Disability claimant has to plead their case face-to-face with a representative of the Social Security Administration. The ALJ will hear your case and make his own decision as to whether or not to award you Social Security Disability benefits. At this stage, one of our experienced attorneys at the Mitzner Law Firm will help best present your case in front of the Judge.

• What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing:

1. The hearing itself will take place at an Office of Hearing Operations (you might also hear it called “OHO” for short).

2. There will not be very many people there. Generally, the only people present at Social Security Disability hearing are the claimant (you), your attorney, the Administrative Law Judge (the person who makes the decision), a hearing reporter (this person will make an audio recording of the hearing and make periodic notes on their computer, but otherwise will not speak), and a Vocational Expert (a witness for the Social Security Agency who will, after listening to your testimony, offer their opinion as to what, if any, jobs a hypothetical individual with your impairments is capable of performing). Sometimes, if the ALJ thinks it is necessary, there will be a Medical Expert (a doctor of some kind) who has read your medical record and listened to your testimony at the hearing. That medical expert will offer their opinion as to the severity of your impairments. There will be no jury, and there will be no opposing counsel waiting to object to anything and everything you say (it’s not like what you see in the movies or on TV). Also, there will be no spectators (this is to protect your privacy).

3. The hearing will be informal. While you will be sworn in before you give testimony, the hearing itself is more along the lines of a conversation between you, your attorney, and the ALJ. The ALJ and your attorney will ask you questions about why you can’t work, how your injury/illness affects you on a daily basis, and generally what daily life is like for you. The ALJ will try to get an idea of how severe your injury/illness is, and to what extent it will prevent you from working.

4. As the Social Security Disability Claimant, your job at the hearing will be rather straight forward. You will offer testimony (under oath) about your medical condition, and how your medical condition prevents you from working. The ALJ and your attorney will also ask you questions (nothing complicated) about your medical condition and what life is like for you living with that condition. Your attorney will then present legal arguments to the judge as to why you should be awarded benefits (just a heads up, this part of the hearing is often very technical, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand what is happening). This part of the hearing is also a large reason to hire an attorney to represent you.

Step 1—The Initial Application (Apply):

• The first step in a Social Security Disability claim is to fill out an application. We will get information from you and put that information in the correct form to help complete your application. At this time, we will also get information about your disabilities and doctors. Once completed and submitted to the Social Security Administration, your application will be reviewed by a medical professional and a case worker, both of whom work for the Social Security Administration. This team will decide whether to award you Social Security Disability benefits, or to deny you. It is very difficult to win at this stage, and most clients do not.

Step 2—Reconsideration (Apply Again):

• If the Social Security Administration denies you benefits after your initial application, you have the right to appeal. This appeal consists of essentially re-filing your application. The same information will be required, and we will again submit this paperwork for you. Your application will then be reviewed by another team at Social Security, again consisting of a medical professional and a case worker. As with the initial application, that team will decide whether to award you Social Security Disability Benefits, or to deny you. Since this is the same group of people reviewing your case, usually a majority of applicants are denied and required to go to step 3.

Step 3—The Hearing:

• If you get denied at reconsideration (Step 2), you can request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (you might also hear them called an “ALJ”). Administrative Law Judges are Judges who work for the Social Security Administration. These ALJs only preside over Social Security Disability Cases (so no divorces or criminal prosecutions) and will give you the opportunity to present your claim in person. This is the first opportunity a Social Security Disability claimant has to plead their case face-to-face with a representative of the Social Security Administration. The ALJ will hear your case and make his own decision as to whether or not to award you Social Security Disability benefits. At this stage, one of our experienced attorneys at the Mitzner Law Firm will help best present your case in front of the Judge.

• What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing:

1. The hearing itself will take place at an Office of Hearing Operations (you might also hear it called “OHO” for short).

2. There will not be very many people there. Generally, the only people present at Social Security Disability hearing are the claimant (you), your attorney, the Administrative Law Judge (the person who makes the decision), a hearing reporter (this person will make an audio recording of the hearing and make periodic notes on their computer, but otherwise will not speak), and a Vocational Expert (a witness for the Social Security Agency who will, after listening to your testimony, offer their opinion as to what, if any, jobs a hypothetical individual with your impairments is capable of performing). Sometimes, if the ALJ thinks it is necessary, there will be a Medical Expert (a doctor of some kind) who has read your medical record and listened to your testimony at the hearing. That medical expert will offer their opinion as to the severity of your impairments. There will be no jury, and there will be no opposing counsel waiting to object to anything and everything you say (it’s not like what you see in the movies or on TV). Also, there will be no spectators (this is to protect your privacy).

3. The hearing will be informal. While you will be sworn in before you give testimony, the hearing itself is more along the lines of a conversation between you, your attorney, and the ALJ. The ALJ and your attorney will ask you questions about why you can’t work, how your injury/illness affects you on a daily basis, and generally what daily life is like for you. The ALJ will try to get an idea of how severe your injury/illness is, and to what extent it will prevent you from working.

4. As the Social Security Disability Claimant, your job at the hearing will be rather straight forward. You will offer testimony (under oath) about your medical condition, and how your medical condition prevents you from working. The ALJ and your attorney will also ask you questions (nothing complicated) about your medical condition and what life is like for you living with that condition. Your attorney will then present legal arguments to the judge as to why you should be awarded benefits (just a heads up, this part of the hearing is often very technical, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand what is happening). This part of the hearing is also a large reason to hire an attorney to represent you.

Step 4—The Appeals Council:

• If you get denied at your hearing, you have the option to appeal your case to what is called the “Appeals Council.” The Appeals Council is a group of 3 members who operate within the Social Security Administration and who will review your hearing and determine if the ALJ appropriately applied the regulations that govern Social Security Disability. Yes, the ALJs have rules that they have to follow in deciding your case, and if they don’t follow those rules appropriately, they commit legal error. If you win your appeal at the Appeals Council, what you win is the right to go back and have another hearing (what we call a “remand”) with the ALJ. The ALJ will hear your case again, but this time he or she will hopefully correct the legal error they made during your first hearing, and correctly apply the regulations that they failed to apply at your first hearing. The Appeals Council is the last and final level of your Social Security Disability claim that is handled within the Social Security Administration itself. If you do not like the Appeals Council’s decision regarding your benefits, you can bring your case to Federal Court, which is outside of the Social Security Administration. However, in order to bring your case to Federal Court, you must first get an Appeals Council Review. In other words, you must first complete Steps 1-4 before you can take your case to Federal Court.

Step 5—Federal Court:

• If the Appeals Council denies your claim for Social Security Disability benefits, the next place to go is the United States District Court. At this point, a Federal Court Judge will decide whether to award you Social Security Disability benefits. This Judge is a Federal Court Judge and is in no way affiliated with the Social Security Administration. If that Judge denies you benefits, you can then appeal all the way up through the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and potentially to the Supreme Court of the United States (although it is possible to go all the way to the Supreme Court, it is very unlikely).

Step 4—The Appeals Council:

• If you get denied at your hearing, you have the option to appeal your case to what is called the “Appeals Council.” The Appeals Council is a group of 3 members who operate within the Social Security Administration and who will review your hearing and determine if the ALJ appropriately applied the regulations that govern Social Security Disability. Yes, the ALJs have rules that they have to follow in deciding your case, and if they don’t follow those rules appropriately, they commit legal error. If you win your appeal at the Appeals Council, what you win is the right to go back and have another hearing (what we call a “remand”) with the ALJ. The ALJ will hear your case again, but this time he or she will hopefully correct the legal error they made during your first hearing, and correctly apply the regulations that they failed to apply at your first hearing. The Appeals Council is the last and final level of your Social Security Disability claim that is handled within the Social Security Administration itself. If you do not like the Appeals Council’s decision regarding your benefits, you can bring your case to Federal Court, which is outside of the Social Security Administration. However, in order to bring your case to Federal Court, you must first get an Appeals Council Review. In other words, you must first complete Steps 1-4 before you can take your case to Federal Court.

Step 5—Federal Court:

• If the Appeals Council denies your claim for Social Security Disability benefits, the next place to go is the United States District Court. At this point, a Federal Court Judge will decide whether to award you Social Security Disability benefits. This Judge is a Federal Court Judge and is in no way affiliated with the Social Security Administration. If that Judge denies you benefits, you can then appeal all the way up through the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and potentially to the Supreme Court of the United States (although it is possible to go all the way to the Supreme Court, it is very unlikely).

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