Three Keys to Win a Social Security Disability Hearing

In representing someone In a claim for Social Security Disability Benefits, oftentimes an attorney representative will find themselves in a hearing, representing their clients in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

When appearing before an ALJ, preparation, detail, and precison is vital to a case’s success. Balancing these three areas is also just as important.

Almost every ALJ at hearing will be expecting an attorney to present their theory of the case, how and why their claimant is disabled, based on evidence and regulations. This is where the balancing act becomes even more critical.

This is because an ALJ offers a limited amount of time for you as an attorney to make an opening statement. A client’s file can be several thousand pages long at times, and you may only have minutes to get your point across as an attorney representative.

I listed Preparation as the first topic because everything else that follows comes from this. If an attorney prepares the case thoroughly before the hearing, they will hopefully have many pages of notes that point out the most important facts of the case. They will hopefully have waded through thousands of pages of information, being ready for questioning by the ALJ about the factual record.

From proper preparation comes great Detail. This does not mean attempting to recite an encyclopedia’s worth of information to an ALJ. What it does mean is to know your record forwards and backwards, being able to refer to the exhibits, pages numbers, imaging studies, doctor opinions, and other facts of importance in your conversation with the ALJ why your claimant is disabled.

At this moment, Precision becomes all the more important. You can get lost in thousands of pages if you don’t know how to proceed in your argument. Your preparation, before the hearing, has given you the confidence to know what present, to know what to highlight, what facts and regulations are really going to make the difference in your client’s case – good or bad. A prepared attorney should be a precise attorney because the ALJ is a busy person with many hearings to handle each day, and will only allow you so much time to present your argument. However, with the confidence of a detailed preparation, a Social Security Disability attorney will be ready to give specific and precise analysis and commentary to an ALJ – thus setting a positive tone for the rest of the hearing.

Harry Brenner, Attorney at Law

Affleck and Gordon, P.C.



Do You Have to Pay Your Attorney Up Front?

The answer is no. You don’t pay your attorney for social security disability up front. We work on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay an attorney fee unless we win. The attorney fee is also limited to 25% of your past-due benefits that you are awarded. Therefore, you would not owe an attorney fee if you are not awarded past-due benefits or “back pay.” For example, the judge may find that you are disabled as of today instead of two years ago when you filed, and award benefits beginning today and continuing into the future. In that instance, you would not receive any past-due benefits or “back pay,” and therefore, you would not owe an attorney fee.

Now let’s look at another example where you are awarded past-due benefits or “back pay,” and an attorney fee would be deducted from your benefits. For instance, you applied for disability two years ago with an onset disability date of May 1, 2106, and you were just awarded a favorable decision by the judge and benefits at $2,000 a month going back to the onset of disability date of May 1, 2016. First of all, you don’t receive any benefits for the initial five months of disability. This is called a five-month waiting period. Out of the two years of back pay minus the five month-waiting period, you are owed 19 months of benefits or $38,000 in back pay. And 25% of $38,000 is $9,500. However, the attorney fee on back-pay is capped at $6,000. Your back benefits that you will receive is $32,000 and your social security disability attorney will receive $6,000.

You and your attorney will sign a contingency attorney fee agreement. This is filed with Social Security to ensure that it meets Social Security’s guidelines.

At Affleck and Gordon, our social security disability attorneys are dedicated to one end – ensuring that you and your loved ones receive the benefits you deserve.

FREE CONSULTATION – Contact Affleck & Gordon today to schedule a free case review.

How-To Guide To Your Social Security Disability Claim

How To Guide To Your Social Security Disability Claim

There are two Programs:

Title II (T2):

  • Disability insurance benefits
  • 5 month waiting period
  • Medicare after two year waiting period
  • Dependents benefits
  • Benefits can reach back 1 year before application

Title XVI (T16):

  • Supplemental Security Income limited to Legal maximum
  • No waiting period for benefits
  • No benefits before date of application
  • No dependents’ benefits
  • Medicaid with no waiting period

You can apply:

(1) In person at local SSA office (T16 or T2)
(2) Online at (T2)
(3) By telephone at 1-800-772-1213 (T2)


(1) Not involved in “substantial gainful activity” since onset
(2) “Severe” medically determinable impairment
(3) Either meet a “Listed” Impairment or have a “Residual Functional Capacity” which precludes any work on a “regular and sustained basis”
(4) Can’t return to any work you have done in the past 15 years
(5) Can’t go to work in any other type of job (including very simple, unskilled, sedentary jobs)


  • Initial application with SSA
  • If denied, must ask for “Reconsideration” within 60 days.
  • If denied, must file “Request for Hearing” within 60 days.
  • You will receive at least 75 days’ notice of your hearing.
  • SSA has no requirement to complete any of these steps within a time limit.

Tips to Help Your Case:

(1) Get as much medical treatment for your condition as you can. Medical records which include “objective findings” to document your “medically determinable impairment” are a major key. Additionally, medical records should reflect the “functional limitations” which arise from your impairment; your doctor will record your symptoms based on your complaints to the doctor.

(2) If you move, get married, get divorced, take a job, have a baby, file a tax return – please let your representative know. This may affect your case.

(3) Keep track of your treatment information (Doctor’s name, office address, phone number and fax number) as well as your day to day symptoms. The Judge will be looking to understand your abilities in terms of sustaining activity for 8-hour days, 5 days a week. Abilities considered include:

  • Standing
  • Sitting
  • Walking
  • Lifting
  • Carrying
  • Pushing/pulling
  • Handling/fingering
  • Gripping
  • Reading
  • Exposure to irritants, heat, cold, dangers, noise
  • Handling stress
  • Retaining information/learning new information
  • Interacting with others
  • Maintaining focus and attention
  • Maintaining adequate pace


Contact our local office today to schedule a free case review.

Super Legal Team - Affleck & Gordon
Super Legal Team – Affleck & Gordon