What happens at a Social Security Disability pre-hearing conference
As we’ve explained here before, most people who apply for Social Security Disability are initially denied benefits. Many applicants must submit go through several appeals, waiting years and dealing with miles of red tape, before they get to the point where they can argue their case before a judge.
If you are denied initially, your best chance at being approved for disability benefits is during one of these hearings before an administrative law judge who works for the Social Security Administration. I think applicants who have an attorney represent them are much more likely to win benefits than those who do not.
The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, ODAR for short, is the part of the Social Security Administration that holds hearings for those who have been denied Social Security disability benefits. Many people who have to go to a hearing are represented by an attorney, who helps gather evidence, explain the law and issues to you, and present the law and facts of your case to the judge.
But there are some applicants who do not have an attorney at this stage. The local ODAR, including ours in Greensboro, will sometimes schedule pre-hearing conferences for people who don’t have representation. If you get a notice of a pre-hearing conference, do not ignore it. We also strongly recommend that you seek the representation of a qualified attorney who can help you prepare the strongest case possible.
At a pre-hearing conference, you will be asked about the medical treatment you have been receiving. The burden to provide evidence to support your disability is on you, and so it is up to you to provide the medical evidence about your mental and physical conditions that keep you from being able to work.
ODAR will sometimes try to obtain these records itself, but in my experience, they often leave out important records.
During the conference, Social Security will also inform you of your right to be represented at your hearing.
Your representative does not have to be an attorney, but I always recommend that people get an attorney to represent them. Attorneys better understand the law and the regulations, in my experience, and can do the best job analyzing and presenting your case to the judge.