A resident of the San Diego area who files disability benefits through the Social Security Administration stands a good chance of having the request denied.
Statistically, the majority of disability claims which get filed also get denied, at least initially. What this means in practice is that if Californians need disability benefits to support themselves, they will likely have to participate in the Administration’s appeal process.
After a denial, a person can ask for the Administration to reconsider the decision. This is an informal process in which another employee of the government will examine the evidence and consider any additional information the applicant wants to submit.
If the reconsideration ends with another denial of benefits, then the applicant will want to ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge, or ALJ
The review hearing before an ALJ is important
A review hearing before an ALJ is more formal. It may be the best chance for a person who has been denied benefits to have that decision reversed.
Although an employee of the Administration, the ALJ will have had no prior contact with the case. He or she will review the file and new information, but he or she will also normally conduct a hearing in which the applicant can give sworn testimony and additional evidence.
The hearing is a little different since there is no one on the other side arguing against the applicant. Still, it is the applicant’s job to convince the ALJ that he or she is entitled to benefits.
It may be important for a person with a disability to have the right assistance when preparing for this hearing.
Other options are available after an unfavorable ALJ hearing
The Social Security Administration allows applicants to appeal an ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council reviews the appeal and determines that the ALJ made an appropriate decision, it will deny further review. Otherwise, it may either enter its own decision or ask the ALJ to re-open its hearing and take additional information.
In some cases, a person may want to continue the process by asking a federal District Court judge, who for San Diego residents would be part of the Southern District of California, to review the matter.