Dallas Fort Worth Texas Social Security Disability Administrative Law Judge Hearings
The administrative law judge hearing is an important event in the social security disability appeal process. The administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is usually the first opportunity Texas disabled workers have to explain to the government in person why their medical condition keeps them from working. Texas disability claimants must have been denied disability benefits from the Disability Determination Services in Austin Texas both at the initial and the reconsideration level before they have a right to an administrative hearing.
Here are some key facts for you to understand about the ALJ hearing. In Dallas Fort Worth and surrounding counties the ALJ hearings are conducted through the Office of Hearing Operations:
- North Dallas
- Dallas downtown
- Fort Worth
Texans who do not live in DFW/Metroplex are not expected to travel to the Dallas or Fort Worth ODARS office for their hearing. Rather a hearing will be set in a local near to you. The ALJ will either travel to the hearing site, or appear via a teleconference connection.
Texas social security disability claimant disability hearings are held before ALJs based in the above offices. As a Texas based attorney Stanley Denman is familiar with all the ALJs in the the 2 Dallas ODARS offices and the ODARS office in Fort Worth. While applying the law uniformly, each Administrative Law Judge has particular aspects of the disability claim that he or she wants presented at the hearing. Attorney Stanley Denman’s years of experience working with these ALJs on a daily basis increases your odds of a favorable outcome.
Here are some important facts about the administrative law judge hearing:
The administrative law judge hearing is your best chance to win your social security disability case
Approve rates for the appeal steps that follow the ALJ hearing go way down. So if you receive a denial from the administrative law judge, you have an important decision to make on your future course of action.
You have a right to an in-person ALJ hearing – but due to COVID-19 you will have to either accept a phone/video hearing or wait until the hearing offices reopen
Administrative Law Judge hearings have traditionally been conducted by an ALJ in the Office of Hearing Operations closest tot he claimant. The Office of Hearing Operations closed with the COVID-19 pandemic and suspended in-person ALJ hearings. Currently disability claimants are offered a hearing via telephone or by video, but are still free to demand an in-person ALJ hearing. If however the claimant insists on an in-person hearing the case will continue in the case backlog until such time as in-person hearings are resumed.
At the present time there is no indication when and under what circumstances the Office of Hearing Operations will resume in-person ALJ hearings.
Your ALJ hearing is not a “trial”
The Administrative Law Judge hearing is “non-adversarial”: there will not be a lawyer representing the government, and formal rules of evidence do not apply. Rather the ALJ hearing is a “fact-finding” inquiry. It is also a “de novo” – a new – inquiry into your claim. The ALJ is not bound by the decisions social security made at the initial and reconsideration stages of your appeal.
Many trial lawyers have trouble adjusting their aggressive styles honed in adversarial trials to the more collegial, “meeting style” required in the administrative law hearing.
The ALJ hearing represents the biggest “log jam” in the social security disability appeal process
The waiting time for an ALJ has been approximately 12 months for a number of years. This does NOT include the time that has already passed at the initial and reconsideration stages of your appeal. This waiting has, however, come down dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, presumably because it is easier to set up and conduct phone or video conference hearings
In all likelihood, there will be a “vocational expert” who will testify in your ALJ hearing
Vocational experts are routinely present now in social security disability hearings. There is wide spread confusion about the role of vocational experts play in ALJ hearings.
The ALJ will assess your “credibility”: Does she believe your statements about the extent of your condition
It can be a bit painful for honest disability claimants to acknowledge, but the ALJ will not just accept your statements about the nature and extent of your symptoms. The ALJ will review the entire record and your medical records to determine if you are “credible“.
The administrative law judge will not announce her decision at the hearing
The Office of Hearing Operations discourages Administrative Law Judges from announcing their decision at the close of the hearing. A small minority of ALJs nevertheless announce their decision if they intend to approve the claim. Almost no ALJs announce their decision during the hearing if they intend to deny the claim. Most experienced social security disability lawyers, however, will have a good sense after the hearing as to whether the claim will be approved.
On average, it takes between 2 to 4 months for a decision to be prepared and sent to you and your representative by mail. The decision will either be “Fully Favorable”, “Partially Favorable” or “Unfavorable”,