An administrative law judge (ALJ) will preside over your disability hearing and issue a decision on your claim. Though the ALJ hearing your case may issue a decision at the conclusion of your hearing, more often than not you will have to wait 30 to 60 days to actually get a decision.
Types of Social Security Disability Hearings in Virginia
Many of my clients want to know the ALJ’s exact role in the process. Below is a list of items addressed by the ALJ:
- Review, analyze, and evaluate the medical evidence. This includes evidence and opinions from the disabled individual’s treating physicians, as well as any evidence from examining doctors hired by Social Security.
- Identify relevant issues. In addition to determining whether or not the claimant is disabled as of the date of hearing, the ALJ will address any other issues such as a remote Date Last Insured (DLI), earnings above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level, and the materiality of any drug and alcohol abuse.
- Assess witness credibility. Symptoms such as pain and fatigue are often subjective. That is why credibility is so important in disability hearings. The ALJ will watch you and listen to your testimony to determine if you are telling the truth.
- Issue decisions that are consistent with Social Security’s rules and regulations.
Hurt or sick, and unable to work? Contact disability lawyer Corey Pollard for a free consultation. He represents injured and disabled individuals throughout Virginia, including Richmond, Newport News, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Petersburg, and Charlottesville.
Disabilityjudges.com provides information and statistics for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) and Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who hear Social Security Disability claims. The website is frequently updated and provides stats on a rolling basis.
There are 5 ODAR offices in Virginia: Richmond, Charlottesville, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Falls Church. On average it takes roughly 13.8 months to receive a SSDI or SSI hearing in Virginia from the time the request. Roanoke has the longest processing time at 443 days, while Norfolk is the “fastest” at 375 days.
Roughly 42 percent of claimants win benefits following their disability hearing in Virginia. Today we’ll take a look at the statistics for ALJs in ODAR’s Richmond office.
Eight ALJs have heard cases out of the Richmond office this year. They are:
- Judge Christine Coughlin – approved 16 percent of cases
- Judge Donna Dawson – approved 32 percent of cases
- Judge Stewart Goldstein – approved 38 percent of cases
- Judge William Hauser – approved 49 percent of cases
- Judge Anthony Johnson Jr. – approved 44 percent of cases
- Judge Theodore Kennedy – approved 35 percent of cases
- Judge Tim Pace – approved 54 percent of cases
- Judge Phylis Pierce – approved 24 percent of cases
As you can see, one of the most important factors in whether or not you win your Social Security Disability case is the judge. There is a wide variance in the percentage of cases each judge approves.
If you are hurt or sick, and unable to work, contact Disability Lawyer Corey Pollard and the firm of Jenkins Block. We represent disabled individuals in their Social Security Disability claims in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina. Contact us today at 804-788-4311 or email@example.com for a free case evaluation.
You are entitled to call witnesses at your Social Security Disability hearing. A good witness will provide testimony that supports and bolsters your claim.
Most claimants do not realize, however, that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing the case is also allowed to call witnesses. Typically the ALJ will call two witnesses.
First, the ALJ may call a medical expert (ME) to testify about your physical and/or mental impairments. Specifically the ME will testify about your limitations and whether you meet one of Social Security’s listings.
Second, the ALJ may call a vocational expert (VE) to testify about the requirements of your past job(s) and whether you are able to perform any jobs in the national economy based on hypothetical questions posed by the ALJ and your representative.
An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can effectively cross-examine these witnesses.
Contact Richmond Virginia Social Security Disability Lawyer Corey Pollard at 757-810-5614 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of Disability Adjudication and Review holds hearing, issues decisions, and reviews appeals as part of the SSA’s process to determine if a claimant is entitled to disability benefits. This division, commonly referred to as ODAR, is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia.
The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review oversees a large group of administrative law judges (ALJ) who preside over impartial disability hearings and make decisions on appealed determinations for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. There are ALJs in every corner of the nation and several in Richmond, Norfolk, Charlottesville, and Roanoke Virginia. ODAR’s Appeals Council reviews ALJ decisions that are appealed by claimants. The Appeals Council may also review ALJ decision on its own motion. This is similar to the IRS auditing tax returns.
ODAR has two units that process and adjudicate cases: the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge and the Office of Appellate Operations.
The Office of the Chief Administrative law judges directs 10 regional offices, 168 hearing offices, 5 national hearing centers, and 2 national case assistance centers. There are more than 1300 ALJs that render over 700,000 decisions at the hearing level each year.
The Office of Appellate Operations consists of the Appeals Council and its support staff. The Appeals Council has close to 70 administrative appeals judges and more than 40 appeals officers. It reviews more than 165,000 hearing decisions each year.
Contact Richmond disability attorney Corey Pollard if you have a hearing scheduled before the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).
By the time you get to your Social Security Disability hearing, you are probably going to be feeling a lot of things. You might be having a bad day because you are hurt or sick. You might be angry at Social Security because it has denied you benefits and because it has taken so long for you to get a hearing. And you might be nervous at the thought of having to go before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and testifying.
Below is a list of things I tell my clients a few weeks before hearing so that they are mentally prepared:
- Always tell the truth. Even if you think an answer will hurt your case, it is better to be honest. The judge wants to see if you are credible. If you lose credibility by lying on one answer, then the judge will not know if you are telling the truth about other issues.
- Give real-life examples when telling your story. Talk about actual things that you used to do but no longer can do because of your medical condition. For example, if you used to play sports with your child but can no longer go outside and do so, tell the judge.
- Know what you are physically capable of doing. You should know how much you can lift, how long you can sit in one place without taking a break, how far you can walk, and how long you can stand without the help of a cane or other ambulatory device. In most cases the judge is going to ask you about these activities. By thinking about these activities beforehand, you can give a detailed answer to the judge that is better than saying, “I don’t know.” You must prove your case. You cannot count on the judge giving you the benefit of the doubt.
- Do not repeat diagnoses given to you by your physician. If you are represented by a Social Security Disability lawyer, then the judge should have your medical records. The medical records will contain all your diagnoses. The judge is more interested in hearing about your daily struggles and the types of symptoms you experience.
- Relax. Your lawyer is there to help bring out the important details in your case. Don’t worry if you forget to say something.
So you know that Social Security disability is a complicated area of law but you still want to attend the hearing on your own? Here are some suggestions:
- Arrive early at the hearing and ask for an electronic copy of your file. The electronic file should include copies of your medical records. Make sure that it does. If the file does not include all of your medical records, make a list of the physician, clinic, hospital, therapist, and counselor visits that are not up-to-date. Ask the judge to order the updated records and provide him or her with contact information for your medical providers.
- Tell the truth. If you don’t know the answer to a question or don’t understand the question, say so.
- Don’t answer “yes” or “no” just to please the judge deciding your case. Make sure your answers are an accurate reflection of what you think. Do not let someone put words in your mouth.
- Tell the judge every condition you have. Do not leave anything out or try to make yourself sound like you are healthier than you really are. Don’t let your pride get in the way of telling the judge how your medical impairments affect you.
- Don’t rely on your diagnoses to win. Make sure the judge knows your actual symptoms and how they prevent you from working.
- Avoid making comments about your financial situation, how bad the economy is, or how no one will hire you. Social Security disability is not unemployment and the judge’s job is to decide whether you are able to work regardless of the economy.
- Carry your medications with you to the hearing. Show them to the judge and make sure he or she knows of any side effects that you experience because of the medication. Medication side effects can be just as bad as the underlying condition for some adults and children.
- If you have not complied with your prescribed medical treatment, honestly explain why. For example, you may not have insurance, which makes it difficult to afford to treat with a physician, therapist, or counselor.
- Dress appropriately. Do not wear hats or graphic t-shirts.
Not all Social Security Disability hearings are held in-person before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Sometimes Social Security will hold your hearing by video conference instead. This raises the question - are video hearings better than in-person hearings?
First, video hearings are typically scheduled faster than in-person hearings. This can be critical when you have already gone months, or even years, without income and adequate medical care. Getting finality with the process may be important to you so that you can move on and assess your options.
Second, video hearings are usually scheduled at a location that is more convenient for you and that is closer to your residence. This means you and any witnesses that you may call will not have to travel as far for hearing.
Despite these advantages, I usually recommend to my clients that they request an in-person hearing. I find that the video hearings can sometimes be too impersonal. I think it is important for you and your Virginia Social Security Disability lawyer to get face time with the ALJ deciding your case. That way, you can present your story in-person and the ALJ can see and hear first hand, from just a few feet away, what you are going through. By having an in-person hearing, you are adding a more human element to your claim, which hopefully pays off in the form of getting disability benefits.
On average I represent disabled persons before six different Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) each month. Each ALJ has a distinct personality and the way the ALJ runs his or her disability hearings is usually a reflection of their personality. Below is a list of some of the qualities that make someone a good ALJ in my opinion.
Puts the claimant at ease - Social Security disability hearings are often nerve-wracking experiences for the claimant. They have waited years for this day and know that the judge before them will decide if they are entitled to benefits. These benefits are needed so that the claimant can keep a roof over his or her head and food on the table. A Social Security judge who understands this, and who shows compassion for the claimant, is likely a good judge.
An understanding that disabled persons often have to make tough choices - Specifically this relates to issues surrounding unemployment compensation benefits and medical treatment. In a previous post, I discussed the impact that receiving unemployment compensation benefits can have on your Social Security disability claim. Click here to read that post. A good ALJ is one who understands that a person without income will do whatever it takes to provide for his or her family, and should not be punished for that. A good judge is also someone who understands that lack of income often means lack of medical treatment, and that this lack of medical treatment should not lead to an automatic denial.
An open-minded listener – There is nothing worse than going into a hearing and realizing that the judge has already made up his or her mind that the claimant is not disabled. This often leads to a contentious hearing and is unfair to the claimant. A good judge is someone who keeps an open mind and lets the claimant testify freely.
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- The claimant missed the deadline to file a request for hearing and did not have good cause for the late filing
- The claimant did not show up for the disability hearing
- The claimant chose to withdraw his or her request for hearing. There are a number of possible reasons for this. I will discuss them in a future post.
Many of the disability claims that are dismissed are for claimants who do not have legal representation. Having an experienced disability lawyer in your corner will help you satisfy all of the procedural rules and keep your claim from getting dismissed on procedural grounds. Contact Social Security disability attorney Corey Pollard for a free consultation.
Social Security Disability Hearing Office Locator
The Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) oversees 10 regional offices, 168 hearing offices, and several national disability hearing centers. There are close to 1,400 administrative law judges and several thousand support staff employed by ODAR. Their job is to schedule and decide whether a claimant is entitled to benefits at the disability hearing.
Social Security disability claimants in Virginia fall under Region 3, which is headquartered in Philadelphia. ODAR’s Philadelphia office directs the hearing offices in Charlottesville, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke.
ODAR’s Richmond hearing office is located on the 4th Floor of 801 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219. You can reach Richmond ODAR by calling 877-405-3665. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Richmond ODAR presides over several Social Security field offices in Virginia. It hears claims filed in Chesterfield, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Richmond, and Winchester. It also hears claims filed in Hagerstown, Maryland.
ODAR’s Norfolk hearing office is located on the third floor of 5850 Lake Herbert Drive, Norfolk, VA 23502. Its telephone number is 866-931-9167. Norfolk ODAR presides over disability hearings for claims filed in Accomac, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Salisbury, and Charlotte Hall.
There is one other reason why you should care who the Administrative Law Judge hearing your case is – approval rates. ALJs vary widely in how many cases they approve. You want an ALJ who approves more cases than he or she denies.
Fortunately the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) has changed the “secrecy” policy and brought some transparency to the system. You can now find out the name of the ALJ assigned to your case weeks in advance. This allows the lawyer handling your claim for Social Security disability benefits to prepare and tailor your case with the ALJ in mind. The better prepared your case, the better your likelihood of success.
Just a few years ago it was next to impossible to find out the name of the ALJ who was assigned to your case. This “secrecy” policy was unpopular with SSD attorneys and claimants alike. Such secrecy was unheard of in other types of cases, including workers’ comp and personal injury.
So can you find out the Administrative Law Judge who is assigned to your case?
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Do you have a question about Social Security disability that you would like answered? Or are you unable to work because of your physical or mental impairments? Either way, give us a call today for a free consultation. We represent disabled adults and children in Richmond, Chesterfield County, Hampton, Williamsburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach.
Your Testimony at the Social Security Disability Hearing
Below are sample questions that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or your Social Security disability attorney may ask you at your hearing. Your testimony should describe your individual limitations.
BACKGROUND, AGE, AND EDUCATION
- Name, address
- Social Security number
- Date of birth, current age
- Height, weight
- Living situation (i.e., who you live with)
- Highest grade completed in school
- If you did not complete high school, did you get a GED?
- Were you in regular classes or special education?
- Are you able to read and speak English?
- If you have trouble, can you read and understand a newspaper?
- Can you read or write a short list?
- If you have trouble understanding writing, who explains your important documents?
- Did you have any vocational training?
- Did you have any on-the-job training?
- Were you in the military?
For each job you have held in the past 15 years:
- Job information
- Dates of employment
- Job title
- Job duties
- Typical hours
- Did you learn the job?
- How much did you make?
- Why did you leave the job?
- Before you left the job, did your health condition cause you to miss work, get disciplined, change your work hours, or change your job duties?
- Exertional Requirements
- Heaviest weight lifted or carried
- How much lifting was required?
- How much time did you spend on your feet each day?
- How much time did you spend sitting each day?
- Could you sit, stand, or walk at will?
- How much crawling, bending, squatting, climbing, and balance was required?
- Were you required to reach overhead or straight in front of you?
- Describe what was required of you from a gross and fine manipulation standpoint.
- Work Environment
- Describe your workplace: temperature, noise, vibration, fumes, dusts, gases, hazards like machinery and heights
- Skill Required
- What was the learning curve for this job?
- How much mentoring and training did you receive?
- Did you manage others?
- Could you hire and fire employees?
- Did you have to write or complete reports?
- What independent judgement was required?
- Did you have deadlines?
- How many others did you work with?
- Did you work with the general public?
- What was your normal routine?
- How many different tasks did you perform each day?
- Why can’t you do the job now?
CURRENT MEDICAL CARE
- Who is treating you now, and what are their medical specialties?
- How long have you treated with your current doctors?
- How often do you see your current doctors?
- What type of treatment are you receiving now?
- Are you taking medication now? If so, what medication and how often?
- Does your medication cause any side effects? If so, what are the side effects?
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS – PAIN
- Describe the nature, location, onset, duration, frequency, and intensity of your pain.
- What aggravates your pain?
- What pain medication are you taking?
- What treatment have you received other than medication?
- What happened to cause this pain?
- How long have had the pain?
- Does the pain ever go away?
- Do you have muscle spasms?
- On a scale of one to ten, where would you rate your pain?
- Does the pain radiate down your arms or legs?
- Do you have any numbness or tingling?
- What symptoms are associated with your pain: swelling, stiffness, weakness, fatigue, redness?
- How does the medication affect your pain?
- Have you tried a TENS unit, physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, or other alternative treatment?
- Has anything helped?
- How has the pain affected your life?
- Do you use a cane, walker, brace, collar, or shower chair?
- Does your pain affect your sleep or other hobbies?
- Does your pain cause you to become irritable, anxious, or depressed?
- How has your pain affected your ability to work?
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS – SHORTNESS OF BREATH
- What causes your shortness of breath?
- Do you have chest pain?
- Do you have lung congestion or asthma?
- How do weather changes affect you?
- Do you have allergies?
- Does stress cause you shortness of breath?
- How often do you have to lie down because you’re out of breath?
- What does it feel like when you’re short of breath?
- How far can you walk before you become short of breath?
- How fast do you walk?
- Are you affected by dust or fumes?
- How often do you get lung infections or have episodes of breathing problems?
- Did you miss work because of breathing problems?
- Would you have to take breaks at work? If so, how often?
- Do you suffer from fatigue?
- Describe your fatigue?
- Are you physically tired or lacking energy?
- Are you drowsy?
- Does your fatigue affect your motivation?
- What worsens your fatigue?
- What makes your fatigue better?
- Do you sleep well?
- How long do you have to rest before performing more physical activity?
- Do you have trouble sitting?
- How long can you sit?
- When you sit, do you have to move around or lean forward?
- What is your pain like when you sit?
- Do you need help getting out of the chair?
- How long do you have to walk or stand for before sitting again?
- Do you have dizziness or stiffness when you get up?
- Do you have to elevate your leg while sitting? If so, how high and for how long?
- What hobbies have you given up because of problems sitting?
- Do you have to alternate sitting and standing? If so, how often?
- Do you have problems standing?
- How long can you stand at one time?
- Do you have problems with walking?
- What assistive devices do you use to walk?
- How far can you walk without taking a break?
- What happens if you walk too far?
- How much can you lift or carry?
- How many times could you lift that much weight before taking a break?
- Describe any difficulty: bending, twisting, stooping, kneeling, squatting, crouching, crawling, climbing stairs, climbing ladders.
- Are you right or left-handed?
- Describe any difficulty you have using your hands and arms for: reaching, handling, fingering, feeling, pushing, or pulling.
- Do you have problems dropping things, opening jars, or performing repetitive hand activities?
- Are you able to drive?
- What problems do you have driving?
- Do you shower or bathe every day?
- Do you get dressed every day?
- Do you have problems or need help with:
- Getting dressed
- Doing your hair
- Buttoning or zipping clothes
- Putting on your shoes or tying your shoelaces
MENTAL HEALTH SYMPTOMS
- Do you ever feel that people are trying to control your actions?
- Do you think that people talk about you behind your back?
- Do you feel that others want to harm you?
- How do you handle stress?
- Do you find the following work demands stressful: speed, deadlines, complexity, independent judgment, dealing with supervisors, co-workers, or the general public, dealing with a routine?
- How well do you understand, remember, and carry out instructions?
- Do you isolate yourself?
- Do you have periods of depression?
- How often do you suffer from crying spell?
- Do you have hallucinations? If so, audio, visual, or both?
ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING
- Who does the following: cooking, dishes, grocery shopping, laundry, paying bills, yard work cleaning?
- How do you get around?
- Do you visit family or friends?
- Can you get along with others?
- What social activities are you involved in?
- Do you read, watch tv, or do other activities around the house?
Have a question about preparing your testimony for hearing? Contact Richmond Social Security Disability lawyer Corey Pollard for a free consultation.
Corey Pollard Law, 801 E Main St #302a, Richmond, VA 23219, United States (US) - Phone: 804-251-1620Email: email@example.com
Many of my clients suffer from physical conditions. Pain plays a large role in limiting their ability to work and function. If you suffer from a physical condition, the judge hearing your case will ask you to describe your pain. It is important that you provide a detailed description of how you feel on a daily basis.
Part I - Richmond Social Security Disability Lawyer Answers Your Questions about the Disability Hearing
You have waited more than two years for this day. Now it is finally here. In just a few hours your Social Security disability hearing will start. Here’s what you should expect and what you should do to give yourself a chance at a favorable decision.
You should arrive at the hearing office at least 3o minutes early. Your disability lawyer will have reviewed your file (i.e., earnings record, work history, medical reports, consultative examination reports, etc.). Do not get there late.
No. The hearing is a private and confidential proceeding. There are usually five people in the disability hearing room: you, the judge, your disability lawyer, the court reporter, and the vocational expert. In some cases a medical expert will attend.