How can I help my claim while I wait for a hearing date?
Learn how long you will wait for a Social Security Disability hearing date and a decision, and what you can do to help your appeal while you wait.
Waiting for a Disability Hearing Date and Decision
A Social Security hearing with an Administrative Law Judge is the second level of appeal. You can request a hearing if your reconsideration has been denied or only partially approved. Your request for hearing will be processed by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), commonly called the hearing office.
A relatively small part of the wait time to get a hearing decision occurs after the hearing when the Administrative Law Judge writes up his decision. Most of the wait time occurs before the hearing date, which will usually be twelve to eighteen months after you filed your request for a hearing.
Support Your Disability Appeal While Waiting
While you are waiting for your hearing to be held, there are a few things you can do to help your claim: Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice including keeping requested appointments and filling your prescriptions on time. Advise your doctors that you have filed a hearing.
If you do not already have professional representation, consider hiring an experienced Social Security attorney to prepare an argument for approval of your claim and to present your case at the hearing. And don’t wait till the last minute to hire a lawyer. Your attorney can start work on gathering everything needed for your hearing as soon as the appeal is filed. For information on working with an attorney, see our article When and How Do I Select an Attorney to Help with my Social Security or SSI Disability Claim?
It’s important to keep the hearing office updated about your medical condition. Get a copy of your records every six months (every three as you get closer to the end of your average waiting period) and submit the records to your attorney for submission to the hearing officer or submit them to the hearing office directly if you do not have an attorney. Keep your attorney and the hearing office informed of any new diagnoses and of any significant worsening in your condition.
If you do any work, be sure your attorney has all the details of dates, hours, and pay. You can be considered disabled while working if you are medically unable to earn at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level, which in 2019 for sighted individuals is $1,220 gross wages or net profit from self-employment and $2,040 for people who are blind or statutorily blind. Other factors are considered in determining SGA when self-employment is involved and disability has lasted less than twenty-four months. Impairment-related work expenses can be used to reduce wages or profit to below SGA levels. If you have changes in your health, or you have a vocational assessment or new medical testing, tell your attorney or the hearing office right away. Also, report any changes in your work activity or address.
For information about what happens at a Social Security hearing, please see our article What Is a Social Security Disability Hearing and What Can I Expect When I Request a Disability Hearing? For additional information on the value of having a lawyer for your Social Security Disability hearing, see How Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me Get Social Security Benefits?