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Social Security Disability

If you are waiting for your disability hearing, you may find useful information at This website has information about specific Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) along with reviews from other claimants who have had experience with the judge. You will be able to look up the judge that has been assigned to your case and see what percentage of case approval or denial that judge has. Or, if you do not know who your judge will be, you can compare all the different judges in your local Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).

You can use this website to see how many ODARs are in your state. You can see the average hearing wait time, average processing time and approval percentage by state. You can also see statistics such as how many judges are in each state, how many cases are dismissed, approved or denied and what the average number of dispositions a day each judge can produce.
There are disability hearing articles where you can learn more about the hearing process, what to expect and what you can do to increase your chances of winning your case. is updated monthly. It is a good resource for finding information that is related to your disability hearing. Being informed about what the hearing process is like and what your chances are for approval is helpful and can be assuring since your will better know what to expect.

ODAR stands for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. It is a branch of the Social Security Administration. Once you have been denied for disability benefits and your appeal is also denied, you file a request for a hearing. At this point your case is forwarded to ODAR.

You will receive various letter from ODAR over the course of your hearing including confirmation that your case was received and notification of when your hearing date is.

The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review holds the hearings and issues the decisions regarding whether or not you will receive disability benefits. There are over 160 hearing offices with more than 1,600 Administrative Law Judges across the nation. It is these ALJs that hear your final appeal and determine whether you will receive benefits of not.

Administrative Law Judges are employed by the Social Security Administration and their job is to hear Social Security Disability cases that have been denied and filed for appeal. Each office also has a Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ). The Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge works under the Social Security Departments Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) who has the power to make decisions regarding new policies for the ODAR offices across the country. The HOCALJ is also responsible for helping to establish any new policies into his/her ODAR office location that have been designated by the CALJ. This insures that all offices are run with the same procedures. The local HOCALJ has the same responsibilities as an ALJ but in addition he/she assigns cases to the Administrative Law Judges in the office, oversees their cases, and helps them to interpret the law as it relates to current cases; in short, the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge acts as an adviser to the other Administrative Law Judges in the office.

Most social security disability claims are denied the first time they are submitted. About 70% of claimants are denied benefits. That does not mean that you are not eligible to receive disability benefits.

If you are denied, you will get a letter in the mail which will describe your condition, the impairments that were considered, medical records and an explanation of why you were denied. The explanation may be that there are other jobs that you can perform. Or it could state that you missed a deadline or that your substantial gainful activity produced too much income to qualify.

As soon as you have been denied you are able to file a request for reconsideration. This is the first level of appeal. You have 60 days to file this request. (If you miss this deadline you will have to begin your application process all over again.) You will be mailed forms to fill out for the reconsideration which you need to return as soon as possible. The request will be turned over to a disability examiner just like with your first claim.

If your reconsideration appeal is also denied, your next step will be to request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). This means you will have a face to face meeting where a judge will ask you questions and possibly hear testimony from medical or vocational experts. When the claimant is represented by an attorney the chances of winning benefits with the approval from an ALJ is about 60%.

You may want to consider seeking the assistance of a Social Security Disability Attorney if you have been denied on your initial claim or your reconsideration appeal. These attorneys have been trained in the law and are aware of how to best present your case. You have a better chance of winning your claim with the help of an attorney. If you feel you are eligible for disability benefits then continue to pursue your claim even if it feels daunting.

A consultative exam is a medical examination. Some people who have applied for social security disability benefits are sent for an exam by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) examiner who is handling their claim. Not every claimant will be asked to go for a consultative exam (CE). If your medical records do not have enough documentation or if you have not been seen by your doctor recently, then the DDS examiner will ask you to schedule a CE.

You will receive a letter asking for a consultative exam if one is needed. The consultative exam will not be performed by your own doctor. You will be referred to someone who is an independent doctor and has been contracted by the Social Security Administration. If you are asked to go to a CE it could be because the examiner is simply trying to get more recent medical evidence such as an updated x-ray. It could also mean that your medical records are outdated because you have not seen a doctor in some time. (This is one important reason why you should always continue with your doctor appointments as the doctor suggests so your medical records current, as well as continue any treatment or medication that has been prescribed.) Be sure that you attend the CE if you are asked to go. Failure to attend may give the examiner a reason to dismiss your claim. If you do have a reason for missing a scheduled exam, contact your DDS examiner or the CE physician to reschedule as soon as you know you will not be able to make your appointment.

The examiner will request the information or tests that he needs from the physician. Your exam may include a physical, psychiatric or psychological evaluation and may or may not include blood work, x-rays or an eye exam. The doctor is really looking for information to give the DDS examiner enough information to know what the claimant’s condition is and what their limitations are and will be. This doctor will not be prescribing any medication or treatment. The exam is all about gathering information on the claimant’s condition which will be reported back to the DDS examiner so that your claim can be decided.

An RFC form is a form that addresses the Residual Functional Capacity for a disability claimant’s ability to work after considering their mental or physical disability limitations. The Disability Determination Services (DDS) examiner considers the factors of a claimant’s case when making a decision to approve or deny a claim. The examiner does a write-up which explains how a decision was reached. Included with the write-up will be an RFC form which will have been filled out by a DDS medical or psychological consultant based on the information that is in your file. This consultant works for the DDS. The DDS examiner uses the opinion of the consultant when he/she makes a decision. The RFC forms that have been completed by DDS doctors are not often beneficial to the claimant.

A Physical RFC Form will be filled out by a DDS physician after he/she reads the claimant’s medical evidence. A portion of the form is to rate a claimant’s ability to perform normal daily activities after considering the individual’s condition. It may mention a claimant’s ability to walk, lift object, sit or stand for certain periods of time as well as other things.

A Mental RFC Form will be completed by a DDS psychologist or psychiatrist after he/she reviews the claimant’s mental symptoms. Things that are considered may be poor memory, inability to concentrate, inability to assimilate new information, illogical thinking and being able to successfully or unsuccessfully engage in simple, routine, repetitive tasks.

It is best to have your own treating doctor fill out an RFC form on your behalf. This can be very helpful to you at the time of your hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The Social Security Administration gives added weight to the opinion of the claimant’s treating physician because this doctor has first-hand knowledge of your medical condition and prognosis. Your treating doctor is in a much better position to give an educated opinion when determining your degree of disability. The ALJ also gives a great deal of importance to the opinions of your treating physicians especially when it is properly documented in an RFC Form that clearly states why a claimant’s return to work is impossible and can be backed-up with medical evidence.

Medical records can be a good source of a claimant’s physical or mental status. They do not give conclusions about a long term prognosis for a claimant’s possible return to work. Up to date medical records are an important thing to include with your case. However, judges do not have the training that doctors have and are not always able to clearly interpret the medical records to see how severe a claimant’s limitations may be. This is why having your own doctor fill out an RFC form is so helpful.

What to Know About Your Hearing

California SSDI and SSI Lawyer

There are potentially several stages involved in the process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). First, a person must submit an initial application. If that application for SSDI or SSI benefits is denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the applicant must submit an appeal for reconsideration within 60 days.

If a timely appeal is made, the applicant’s claim is reviewed under reconsideration. If the SSA denies the applicant’s claim after reconsideration, the applicant has 60 days to file an appeal seeking a hearing in person before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

About the Hearing

The hearing itself is rather informal, but it is best to be dressed appropriately with a neat, clean appearance. If you do not know what to wear or have other questions about your hearing, call Jorgensen Law at 888-855-2948. Our law office is located in San Diego, California. We are pleased to assist people throughout the state of California.

The average time required to schedule an ALJ hearing is approximately 8-12 months, and after your hearing the judge will typically take between 30 to 120 days to issue a decision. If you have an attorney, your attorney will receive a notice or your approval or denial of benefits from the Social Security Administration at the same time that you do, so they will not know the outcome of the case before you do.

Contact Jorgensen Law

The best way to protect your rights and increase your chances of receiving maximum benefits in the fastest manner possible is to retain an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. Our firm has an astonishing record of success in Social Security cases, having helped approximately 90 percent of our clients receive benefits.

To contact our San Diego, Los Angelese or Riverside, California law office for a free consultation, call 888-855-2948, or contact us by e-mail.

There are two ways to submit an application for disability benefits. You can call the Social Security office and schedule an appointment which you can have either over the phone or in person. Some people prefer to do this because they can have assistance from a field representatives while completing their paperwork. For others, applying online is a better fit because you do not have to wait for an appointment, you can start your claim immediately from your home or any computer and you can avoid trips to the Social Security office.

Anyone can use the online application as long as you meet the following requirements:

• You are 18 years old or older
• You are not receiving any benefits on your personal Social Security record
• You have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify for benefits
• You have a medical condition which has prevented you or will prevent you from working for 12 months or that will end in death.

To apply online, go to the Social Security Administration’s website ( and select the link labeled “Apply Online for Disability Benefits” which is in the left hand column. You will be directed to a page that will help you get the application process started. You will see the four steps to apply online which are:

1. Review the Adult Disability Checklist
2. Complete the Disability Benefit Application
3. Complete the Adult Disability Report
4. Complete the Authorization to Disclose Information form (SSA-827). This can be done electronically as part of your Adult Disability Report or print and mail the form to your Social Security Office.

After completing the application online, you may want to contact the Social Security office nearest to where you live to confirm that your application has been received. You can also contact the office while you are filling out the application if you have questions. The SSA claim representative may also contact you if there are any questions about your disability application.

If you have already applied for disability and have been denied, you may want to talk to a disability attorney. Most likely your case will need to be resolved at a disability hearing. At Jorgensen Law we represent clients everyday at disability hearings. Contact us for a free evaluation of your case. Our main office is in San Diego, California; However, we represent claimants all over Southern California and Arizona.

Lucille, from Imperial Beach California, asks “I am divorced and never re-married. I have never worked. Can I apply for Social Security Disability benefits under my ex-husband’s work record?”

If you are divorced and never remarried, you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits on your ex-spouses record.

Adrian, from San Bernardino California asks, “Can hiring an attorney really improve my chances at winning my Social Security Disability claim?”

Yes, a disability attorney can help improve your chances at winning a disability or SSI claim at the initial application level, the reconsideration appeal, and especially a disability hearing.

Tammy, in Oceanside, California, asks “I did not go to college; my highest level of education is High School. Will that make it easier for me to qualify for Social Security Disability?”

When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, your symptoms will be compared to an official book that contains all the listings of impairments (also referred to as the “Blue Book”). If your disability is in the listing of impairments and all of your symptoms match the requirements, then you will probably qualify for disability and your education does not affect the decision.

Terry, in El Cajon, California, asks “Will my spouse’s income affect my Social Security Disability Insurance? “

Your spouse’s income will not affect your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Qualifying for SSDI is based only on your work history, your disability and your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. The income or resources of your spouse will not affect your eligibility for SSDI or the amount you will receive for SSDI benefits. Your savings and investments also will not affect your SSDI eligibility or benefits.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
Substantial Gainful Activity (or SGA) is a term used by the Social Security Administration and Disability Determination Services (DDS) to refer to a person’s ability to work and earn enough income that would prevent them from qualifying for disability benefits.

Travis, in Oceanside California, asks “What qualifies someone as being disabled and eligible for Social Security Disability benefits?”

Tanya in Del Mar, California asks “If I am found eligible for Social Security Disability benefits in San Diego, how much can I expect to receive each month?”

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the amount you receive will be based on your work history (how many years you have been working) and how much money you earned (and how much money you paid in required Social Security payroll deductions). The more you earned, the more you paid into Social Security, so the larger your disability benefit will be.

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