When people in California apply for Social Security Disability benefits, they may want to figure out how to maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome. However, during the first two stages of the process, there is often little an applicant can do to influence the outcome of their case. When an application for SSD benefits goes through the initial review process and then the reconsideration appeal, disability examiners make the decision about the outcome at those stages.

In general, disability examiners deny more people’s claims for Social Security Disability benefits than administrative law judges, who preside over the third stage of the process. After a disability application has been denied at the first two levels, the claimant can proceed to a disability hearing. At a disability hearing, the applicant has the opportunity to review the file being used for their case and supplement it with additional medical evidence. In addition, they can ensure that none of their medical records are missing. In some cases, people have learned that significant records were never obtained by the examiner despite the contact information for the relevant physicians being provided.

Administrative law judges can directly question the applicant about their prior work history and the impact of their disability. The disability hearing stage is also a good opportunity to present information from the applicant’s own doctor; while this evidence is usually given little weight in earlier stages, it can be particularly important during the hearing. Administrative law judges will typically find great importance in a detailed, thorough statement from the claimant’s own treating physician.

When people are applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the road to a successful outcome can seem long and tiring. However, a disability lawyer may help people applying for this much-needed supports to develop their application and put forward their case at a disability hearing, increasing their likelihood of success.