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ALJ: A Key Acronym to Note for Many SSD Claimants

Cutter Hall Karlock, LLC July 31, 2021

“You do not have to accept the first answer to your claim.”

That is important to note for many Social Security Disability applicants in Ohio and nationally.

Here’s why: Legions of them – most claimants, in fact – suffer denials of their initial applications for benefits.

That is frustrating, of course. Moreover, it is patently disheartening for people who confront bureaucratic complexity and blowback concerning a deeply needed government entitlement.

The above nudge toward claim proactivity and perseverance comes courtesy of an authoritative Ohio legal source on the SSD process. That overview duly underscores that, while initial denial is common, “denials can be appealed – and frequently are, with a great deal of success.”

SSD stages: when an ALJ enters the process

Here is a quick summary of the various SSD application phases:

  • Initial filing

  • So-called “reconsideration,” the first appeal

  • Second appeals level marked by a formal hearing

  • Appeal with the Appeals Council

  • When necessary, recourse to federal court

Today’s blog post focuses on that third bullet point, namely, a second-level appeal at a hearing overseen by an ALJ. That acronym is the shorthand designation commonly used for an administrative law judge.

Basic considerations re an ALJ appeals hearing

Here’s a point to note: Legions of disability applicants arrive at the hearing stage after suffering successive disappointment at the initial filing and reconsideration stage. And while further denial can occur at the ALJ hearing phase, it is also true that many applicants finally prevail on their claims at this juncture.

What is often a key factor in driving claim success in a hearing is a proven disability legal team’s close input and advocacy on every material point that an administrative law judge will consider.

Candidly, ALJs appreciate a case file that is well prepared, comprehensively documented, on point and persuasively argued. An ALJ is routinely under a considerable amount of time/scheduling pressure, a point highlighted in a recent report. A study authored by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office notes that administrative law judges are expected to make rulings in as many as 700 appeals cases a year. A flat majority of polled ALJs say they view that expectation as unreasonable and even onerous.

Quality legal work backing a claimant can unquestionably prove to be a positive and influencing factor in an ALJ’s ruling. Experienced SSD attorneys can provide it and work diligently toward an optimal case outcome.